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Free compost collections actually increase rubbish

By Rebecca Thyer

Free organic waste collections are popular with residents but can increase the amount of rubbish created, according to a new study.

The results follow a two-year, £275,000 study into the kerbside collection of organic waste. It was run in partnership with Bath and North East Somerset Council, funded by the SITA Environmental Trust, and tested different collection methods on 3,000 homes in the region.

The trials found that the free collection of garden waste encouraged participation, but also led to a large increase in the amount of waste generated by homes.

On rounds where the collection of garden waste was free, the participation rate was 71% with the average home producing 263kg of garden waste annually.

Where a charge was made, not only did the participation rate drop to 10% but the garden waste collected also dropped to 25kg per household per year.

Community recycler ECT operates six kerbside schemes in the West Country and has been involved in the study.

ECT managing director Andy Bond said: These findings clearly pose a quandary for councils. If local authorities want to meet their recycling targets, then the collection of garden waste cannot be ignored. But, if this is done for free, you can end up just encouraging the generation of even more rubbish.

Dealing with garden waste costs money, so the sector will have to find a middle ground where the collection of garden waste is charged for but at a price residents find acceptable.

The study also found that:

l Weekly kitchen waste collections were more effective than fortnightly ones

l Kerbside composting schemes can have a significant impact on overall recycling rates

l Services provided all year round were more popular and had higher participation rates than those run on a seasonal basis

l No collection method surpasses another in popularity with the public

l A households income level is the single biggest factor influencing the amount of materials composted, rather than their urban or rural location. Participation in the collection service increased with the Council Tax band

l Contamination of garden and kitchen waste can be significantly reduced if strong enforcement is combined with good communication

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