No health risk from bi-weekly collections, says Government

Storing waste at home for two weeks while you wait for the binmen to collect it does not appear to have any adverse health implications, according to research commissioned by the Government.

Concerns had been raised by members of the public that alternate weekly collections of recyclable and non-recyclable rubbish might offer a breeding ground for disease or attract vermin.

But according to the report, Health Impact Assessment of Alternate Week Waste Collections of Biodegradable Waste, from environmental consultants Enviros and Cranfield University, there is no evidence that health risks are any higher with bi-weekly collections than they would be for weekly collections.

The report, commissioned by South East Waste Advisory Group and funded by Defra’s Waste Implementation Programme, concludes that common-sense measures, such as keeping waste tightly wrapped and bin lids closed, can help to deal with any potential increases in odour, insects, or other nuisance that could be associated with alternate weekly collections.

Researchers first looked at previous studies in this area before quizzing residents and waste professionals both on the ground and in management in areas with weekly and bi-weekly collections.

The survey was carried out in the winter and repeated in the summer to see if weather made a significant difference. The researchers found that bi-weekly collections tend to lead to a higher recycling rate and that concerns about health risks appear to be unfounded.

Welcoming this research, Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said:

“Collecting recyclables one week and residual waste the following week has increased the amount of recycling in places where this change has been made,” said Ben Bradshaw, Environment Minister with responsibility for waste.

“Recycling is a vital part of our battle against dangerous climate change – the equivalent of taking three and a half million cars off our roads.

“The research showed that alternate weekly collections work best when the public are informed well in advance of any change.”

Cllr Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Environment Board, defended councils’ right to make their own decision on their waste collection timetable but said that the report backed up what authorities were seeing in practice.

“Councils are on the frontline in the fight against climate change and working hard to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill,” he said.

“Authorities introducing alternate bin collections make the decision based on what will work best in their unique local circumstances.

“Councils bringing in the scheme work with residents to make sure they know about the changes and how to dispose of their waste. As long as people use their bins properly, the system is efficient and hygienic.

“Local authorities are using every tool in their arsenal to make sure that council tax is kept down and the environment is protected. Alternate week collection is one of those tools. It is proven to increase the amount of recycling achieved and reduce the level of waste sent to landfill.”

Sam Bond

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