Councils offering three-weekly collections have reported increased recycling and less residual waste due to the switch, according to research by Ricardo Energy & Environment.
Ricardo praised ”the innovation, commitment and doggedness” of officers and their willingness to share their learning.
The consultancy interviewed six councils in England, Scotland and Wales which have introduced three-weekly collections – or four in the case of Fife – for residual waste.
All said the need to drive down costs led to the switch, with estimated savings of nearly £1m identified by one council. The implications on staffing levels has been minimal with most transferring from the residual to the recycling service, says Ricardo.
The councils all now provide food waste collections, either separately or with garden waste, while other materials vary. Containers and vehicles being used also varied greatly, with only a few procuring new containers and vehicles for the switch.
Some of the councils have not included flats with multiple occupants in the three-weekly service, while additional storage capacity and absorbent hygiene products such as nappies are issues raised by residents.
Most councils waited for the service to bed-in before starting enforcement action on residents not complying.
Ricardo principal consultant Brian Mayne described political support and leadership as a key factor in the councils’ successful implementation of the switch, along with a well-structured and organised communications campaign.
He said: “What has stood out is the willingness of officers to share their experience so that others can learn from them, which is why the case studies have been undertaken.
“Above all, you cannot fail to be impressed by the innovation, commitment and doggedness of the officers responsible for making this significant change to how we deliver one of the most important frontline services.”
Training with in-house operatives has been delivered and media packs were sent out. Many officers stated that local newspapers had provided balanced coverage but not so the national press.