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Valuing our household collections

There was a flutter on Twitter after Mick George announced that it was adding household waste collections to its portfolio in the Northampton area. 

As was illustrated in our Big Interview with company director Neil Johnson in the February issue of MRW, this enterprising regional waste management company has a keen eye for business opportunities. It is not the first to seek advantage over local authorities extending the period between collections: Busy Bins started offering something similar two years ago in the Greater Manchester area.

Various tweets questioned practicalities under the Waste Directive and TEEP regulations over collecting unsorted waste, particularly over Mick George’s promise to “take the hassle of segregating your waste for you” by accepting it in one bin.

These offerings come at what Mick George described as a small cost. But a typical annual fee for collections between “missing” fortnightly collections could be around £260. That’s twice the typical component of a local authority’s council tax levied to pay for household collections.

The recent Policy Exchange report questioned whether the average local authority cost of waste collections – around £130 – was good value. It strikes me that paying someone a fiver to take my stuff away every fortnight is, indeed, good. If residents knew the difference between private and local authority charges, they might balk at a ‘commercial’ household pitch.

The enterprising efforts of a few private waste firms may not ultimately catch on, but they emphasise the delicate state of local authority collections. There are austere times, material prices are low and the UK recycling rate is in decline. Some large, lengthy contracts with big operators have either been torn up or are being reviewed – Manchester’s huge public-private partnership is a case in point.

The debate about the future of household collections goes on but it seems the status quo cannot be the preferred path.

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