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Pickles: weekly bins a ‘class issue’

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has called weekly bin collections a “class issue” and accused those in favour of less frequent collections of being out of touch with public opinion.


Pickles told the communities & local government (CLG) committee a weekly collection was a matter of respect and alternate weekly collections made life “unpleasant” for those without big gardens.     

He said that the political class “have got out of kilter with what the public want”, adding: “I see this almost as a class issue. It’s kind of ok if you have a biggish house with a big garden and you can put the remains of food down the back of a garden.

“If you are in a terraced house and it’s right next to you, that is not a pleasant experience to have.

“What I am seeking to do, for those authorities that want to do so, without sacrificing recycling, to be able to deliver to the public what the public want and to make conditions that we don’t force people into recycling by making their lives unpleasant.”

Labour committee member Heidi Alexander asked whether councils would be able to apply to the new £250m kitty to fund food waste collections but he declined to comment, stating full details would be unveiled to parliament in January.    

Pickles unveiled the £250m weekly collections support scheme, which he said would “support councils to deliver a weekly collection of household waste and improve the environment”, in September.

Environmental campaigners and waste chiefs voiced concerns about the direction of the policy and the potential impact it could have on recycling rates.  

These concerns were further exacerbated when a senior civil servant indicated councils bidding for a share were unlikely to be successful unless there is a commitment to weekly residual waste rounds.

Department for Communities & Local Government director general of localism David Prout told MPs this appeared to rule out money to solely support weekly collections of food waste – which would be largely backed by the waste industry.

The fund would be reserved for councils which met key criteria, including retained or reinstated weekly residual waste collections.

“It’s about three things: it’s about reinstating or retaining a weekly black bag collection - in other words, so you as a household get your rubbish collected every week - and it’s about improving environmental performance, and it’s about improving value for money,”  he told the CLG committee.

The department declined to comment on whether or not it would rule out bids for weekly food waste collections but industry figures said such a move would be “disappointing [and] go against the government’s own waste review”.

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