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News analysis: Searching out the secret of Lichfield's recycling success

Lichfield District Council last week topped a list of English local authorities with a recycling and composting rate of 46.2% for 2003/4.
But what has the council done to smash its Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) target of 26% and be top among English councils?
The district contains 40,000 households in an area of 128 square miles. Outside the main areas of the city of Lichfield and the town of Burntwood, half of its households are in rural villages.
Despite the logistical difficulties that rural areas encounter, it has managed to put recycling firmly at the heart of its community.
Lichfield resident Sarah McMulkin said: "My family has been recycling for as long as we can remember. It couldn't be easier - it's part of everyday life for us."
This approach of making recycling easy and an important part of life has paid dividends.
Its recycling scheme is integrated as part of its kerbside waste collection scheme for all households across the district.
Within this, it has two recycling collections. One of these is a weekly collection of dry recyclables using one box for paper and card, and the other for glass, cans and plastics. Then it also has an alternate weekly collection of garden waste in a brown bin and residual waste in a black bin.
The council stressed that these collections need to be reliable and meet their residents' needs. But it has also ensured that it has taken advantage of extensive consultation on its services and heavily promoted them.
To do this, it has taken advantage of a grant from DEFRA in 2003 to extend its service to all its residents, as well as a grant last year of £164,500 from the Waste and Resources Action Programme to help a two-year project to get more residents to recycle.
But one of its most successful strategies has been to communicate to its residents, beginning in the summer of 2000 with a campaign to introduce the then new integrated waste collection and recycling service. This involved a consultation document that was sent to every household, 20 roadshows using a specifically designed mobile exhibition unit containing promotional material and freebies, press releases to the local media, presentations at parish council meetings, open days at schools and a specially-designed web page.
Following the consultation, the council opted to change its collection procedure from a fortnightly collection of dry recyclables and green waste and a weekly collection of residual waste, to its current arrangement.
Publicity for this collection change began in April 2002 and included a leafleting campaign to households, delivery of a recycling calendar to households, more roadshows, more local press coverage and presentations to parish councils and community groups. Interestingly, the meetings highlighted individual problems that were dealt with through a system of appointments with the council.
In areas that had unique difficulties, such as rows of terraced houses, the council embarked on face-to-face work with residents to discuss recycling collection problems and find solutions with the community.
The council also had recycling-themed competitions to win a computer and a trip to a glass reprocessing plant. It also attended local events and shows and had special stalls and floats to explain recycling. Finally, it set-up a telephone hotline to answer any recycling queries.
While this strategy of involving the community in its plans has borne fruit in terms of expanding recycling and composting, it hasn't sat on its l

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