Magnificent seven

An enterprising partnership between seven local authorities may become a national model of best practice as recycling rates soar across the area

Recycling rates have rocketed across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in recent years thanks to an enterprising partnership between seven local authorities.

Under the Recycling in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough (RECAP) partnership, which was set up in 1999, participating LAs cooperate to reduce waste and encourage recycling. The councils also work with local communities and charities to reuse more materials.

The seven LAs involved are Cambridgeshire County Council and the five district councils (Cambridge City, Huntingdonshire, South Cambridgeshire, East Cambridgeshire, and Fenland) as well as unitary council Peterborough City.

Teamwork is very much at the heart of RECAP’s approach and as a result, the recycling rate across the area has soared from 22% in 2001 to 43% during the first half of 2005, with one council in particular putting in a star performance – in the latest LA recycling league tables for 2004/5, South Cambridgeshire is ranked third highest in the country with an overall recycling rate (including composting) of 46.8%.

Rebecca Weymouth, one of two partnership officers, says that South Cambridgeshire has led the way for the other councils in this respect, being the first to introduce alternate weekly collections. She estimates that 95% of residents across the area now have kerbside collection.

“Thanks to recent funding, all collection authorities now have council-wide dry kerbside collections and composting schemes. Five of the authorities have alternating weekly collections and two now have wheeled bins for dry recycling instead of boxes.”

She adds that green waste collections have benefited from their contractors becoming compliant with the Animal By-Products Regulations, enabling kitchen waste to be accepted as well. So far 89,823 tonnes of waste has been recycled and composted across the area during 2005/6.

While collections are generally well received, Ms Weymouth says that there are still pockets of low performance. To address this, RECAP is carrying out doorstep campaigns and employs two recycling buses to tour local schools to talk to children and parents about the benefits of recycling.

The area has also benefited from the development of several community waste reduction and reuse schemes. These include ‘Slim Your Bin’ – an awareness campaign encouraging waste reduction, an education centre adjoining Peterborough’s MRF, and the Real Nappy Network in which new parents are given free nappy trial kits to encourage them to use washable nappies.

A waste electrical & electronic equipment (WEEE) reprocessing facility has recently been built in Peterborough – the result of a partnership between the city council, local business and manufacturers.

The councils are performing well on their diversion targets – Cambridgeshire County Council has already sold 5,000 tonnes of allowances under the landfill allowance trading scheme (LATS). Ms Weymouth says that the money raised from this will go toward helping to fund a new waste management PFI project which is currently being put out to tender.

The success of RECAP has not gone unnoticed – its recycling initiatives have now been shortlisted for Beacon Status, a government award that recognises national best practice.

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