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TOR2 re-ignites the AWC debate

The partnership between Torbay Council and May Gurney to deliver a new waste and recycling collection service to 60,000 households has re-ignited the long-running debate over the benefits of councils moving to alternate weekly collection (AWC) systems for residual waste.

The new service launched on 6 September, which saw residents issued with new recycling boxes and wheeled bins so a wider range of materials could be recycled, encountered some initial problems in its first few days of operation while residents got used to the service.

However, figures released yesterday by May Gurney show that, despite some early issues with the system, Torbay has seen an 81% increase in its recycling in the first full two week period of the new collection service compared to the amount of recyclables collected in the last full two week period of the old system.

TOR2 project director Alistair Campbell said: ““These figures demonstrate how quickly Torbay residents have become familiar with the new system and how comfortable they are using it. This is good news for the environment and the local economy.  Less waste is now going into landfill and more material is being reprocessed.”

The service comprises of all recyclables being collected on a weekly basis with residual waste collections having moved to once a fortnight which has prompted some of those opposed to AWC systems to speak out against such services.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill, who has previously spoken out against AWCs, is quoted in one local paper as saying that councils need to take into account the effect on local amenity and street scene when planning their waste policies.

The positive results from the TOR2 scheme come just two days after the chair of London Fire and Emergency Committee slammed AWCs saying that they may lead to an increase in the amount of uncollected rubbish either left at the kerbside or fly-tipped which would in turn lead to an increase in “more malicious fires”.

This follows on from comments made earlier this year by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who has been vocal in his opposition to AWCs. The wider roll-out of weekly rubbish collections is also likely to be considered as part of Defra’s current Waste Review, according to its terms of reference.

However, in opposition to this, Labour environment group SERA has made comments which support schemes such as TOR2.

SERA co-chair Leonie Cooper told MRW:  “Eric Pickles has an irrational, and expensive, obsession with weekly collections. He also preaches localism, and returning decision-making powers to councils, yet on this issue he wants total control.

“SERA supports local councils keeping the right to implement AWCs if they decide that is what is right for them in their local area - and if it also saves local taxpayers money it can only be pig-headed dogma that stops Pickles supporting it.”

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