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Public say no to alternate week collections

While the majority of people in the UK are prepared to separate their waste materials for recycling they want their bins emptied more than once a fortnight.

The findings, from an independent survey commissioned by MRW on behalf of the RWM Exhibition, show that public resistance to alternate week collection systems is still high. Two thirds of those surveyed wanted weekly collections for waste and recycling and only 17% were in favour of alternate week collection schemes. Public sentiment toward alternate week collections was shown last month in the high-profile protests in Scunthorpe, after the areas recent introduction of the collection method.

Local authorities questioned on preferred collection frequency also favoured weekly collections overall (41%) but a higher proportion than the public supported alternate week (21%) and fortnightly (35%) collections.

Commenting on collection frequency, Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) chairman Lee Marshall said: Its a difficult dilemma. In terms of maximising material, weekly collections have the potential to do that. But you need to balance that with the cost of providing the service. Alternate week collections balance the cost in terms of provision and can encourage people to recycle due to the natural limit of what people can put in their bins.

Marshall added that over a hundred authorities were currently using alternate week collections and initial negative reaction to the introduction of such schemes could be due to the publics resistance to change.

Icelandic electric bin lift manufacturer Ecoprocess may offer one type of solution. Its sliding electric bin lift allows for RCVs to have three compartments and collect recyclables along with residual waste at once, offering the potential for more frequent collections while being cost-effective by needing fewer crews and vehicles.

UK sales manager Scott Young said the system has been used in France with great success and could help the situation in the UK. A bit of cooperation has got to be seen from both viewpoints, he said, adding that councils needed to understand the publics demands for frequent collections and the public needed to understand demands on councils to increase recycling rates at reasonable cost.

The public have said they are willing to separate materials themselves, with 62% stating a preference for having different containers for different materials. However, there is still a gap between what the public believes is right and what it is willing to do, as 81% revealed they thought this was the best method for the environment.

Both public and local authority support for fining those who refuse to recycle is high, with 58% of the public and 62% of local authorities agreeing with the approach. But Marshall said: The court case in Exeter showed the problems councils face in terms of fining. He referred to the example set by Barnet as a sensible approach, coupling the threat of fines with an educational programme.

Although the public were for fining non-recyclers, when asked how much they thought they should pay for their waste and recycling services, three out of five said nothing. With pay-as-you-throw systems being discussed at Government level, it reveals the publics perception that waste and recycling services should be free.

Separating out the charge for waste and recycling services on council tax bills is something that LARAC has been campaigning for, to make the public aware of the expense of these services. Marshall said: A visible fee should happen as soon as possible. He added that for many people there was a perception that all of their council tax went toward the provision of their waste and recycling services, which they were most likely to see evidence of in their daily lives.

The survey was conducted in August 2006 and interviewed 100 local authority recycling officers and 965 members of the pub

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