The race is on for councils wishing to bid for a slice of the much vaunted Weekly Collection Support Scheme.
But with just two weeks to express an interest, legal experts, the industry and the Local Government Association have warned that the time scale and contractual complexities could thwart communities secretary Eric Pickles’ crusade against ‘fortnightly collections’.
In most circumstances, returning to weekly residual collections, as favoured by Pickles, would likely damage recycling rates and have additional environmental costs such as increased fleet emissions. There are also significant costs to the public purse. Service variation may well trigger the need to re-tender - and penalty clauses for breaking existing contracts.
These factors raise serious questions: given that councils face penalty costs of up to a year’s contract value, there is a risk that a significant chuck of the fund could be spent on legal and administrative complexities rather than on supporting recycling.
By contrast, focusing on introducing weekly food waste collections offers only an upside. It would help to reduce waste to landfill without carrying any of the costs of changing existing contracts, and offer a valuable boost to anaerobic digestion, which benefits the environment.