Recycle - or else!
Residents in a North London borough have found themselves unwitting volunteers for a pioneering scheme that requires them to recycle their waste or face a stiff fine.
The results have been impressive, seeing domestic recycling rates rise by over 18% and the council is hopeful it will be recycling 30% of household waste by the end of 2005.
Schemes that reward residents for taking part are not new, (see related story) but this kind of tough-love strategy forcing householders to be responsible with their waste is a first for a British authority.
The scheme has not gone unnoticed by Barnet's peers and several other authorities are now poised to follow suit.
Rachel Tansley, a spokesman for Barnet council, explained how residents separate their recyclable rubbish and put it out in a black box for kerbside collection.
But while similar scenes are taking place up and down the land every day, only the people of Barnet face fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to sort their waste.
"It's all part of a drive to meet our recycling targets," she told edie news.
"People are required to put out there glass, cans and paper waste for recycling.
"In the trial wards recycling went up quite substantially, by 18.4% and the recycling rates reached 21% by last October."
"Before we'd consider taking someone to court, we would send officers round to talk to them and find out why they are not using their black boxes.
"We monitor it carefully, we're not targeting people who miss their recycling for a week or two."
There are currently four potential prosecutions in the pipeline, and other local authorities are waiting with baited breath to see the outcome of the test cases.
"I think a few others are considering adopting a similar strategy," said Ms Tansley.
"I believe Newcastle is quite close to introducing something similar and the Mayor (of London) has also shown an interest."
A spokesman for London's mayor, Ken Livingston told edie: "The mayor has said that should Barnet's recycling scheme prove successful in increasing recycling, he would be interested in seeing it extend across London.
"The mayor wants to establish a single waste authority in the capital replacing the handful of regional authorities that currently exist in order to take a more strategic approach to waste disposal."
Although the scheme has not been universally popular among Barnet residents and there has been some grumbling in the local paper uptake has been excellent and the authority is pleased with the results.
"The response has been really good," Ms Tansley told edie.
Although the scheme has undoubtedly improved recycling rates, the council still has a long way to go to match those of some of our European neighbours, several of whom have rates in the region of 50%.
By Sam Bond