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Northern Ireland figures condemned as unfair

The way local authority recycling figures are compiled and reported on in Northern Ireland has been condemned as unfair and inappropriate.

The Belfast Telegraph recently carried a story on how Belfast City Council finished bottom of a Northern Ireland league table for recycling.

Belfast city council waste manager for education and promotions Martin Doherty said: "I understand journalists have to sell papers, but they scandalised it. Belfast is unlike any other area in Northern Ireland, the nearest is only half our size. If they compared us with Liverpool, Glasgow and Cardiff, something could be brought out of it, but they are not comparing like with like."

The article stated that Antrim was the second best performer, recycling 38.4%. But with just 17,000 houses, Doherty points out that Belfast has a council estate bigger than the entire authority.

Since the figures were compiled, Belfast has seen its recycling rate rise from 8.9% to 18%.

Evidence, he suggests, that they are dealing with the unique logistical problems the city faces.

Doherty added: "We should be afforded time to implement it. But we can't be compared to semi-rural, well-adjusted areas. Of the 14 most deprived areas in Northern Ireland, 10 are in Belfast. Also, we have to deal with getting recycling facilities into high-rise buildings, tenements and for tight, terraced housing."

Performance has improved 100% year-on-year, and a £1 million promotional campaign is being launched to gain more exposure.

"By the middle of 2006, we are hoping that every household will have a kerbside recycling point and we will leapfrog a great many of the other authorities. But in terms of spending on marketing, incentives and tackling the issue, we are pretty much top of the Premiership."

Local comparisons for areas such as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales take no account of logistical and demographic problems. Doherty believes such tables merely fuel sensationalist and uninformed newspaper articles.

"Congratulations to those that get stonkingly good results, but it distorts the reality. Take Newcastle, Liverpool and similar sized cities and compare them to us up to June 2006. We should be in excess of 20% by then and pretty much top of the tree."

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