Reports from the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail suggest the Department for Communities and Local Government is to publish its first ever official guidance to encourage councils to bring back weekly bin collections.

The guidebook –dubbed a “bin bible” – seeks to debunk the arguments made by campaigners which want more councils to replace weekly black bag collections with fortnightly pick-ups. It claims that “there is no getting away” from the fact that fortnightly collections will lead to “vermin/smell/odour problems”.

It cites a recent survey that found “problems with flies and smells were much worse with fortnightly collections”.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told the Telegraph: “This new guidance on weekly collections is the first time Whitehall has ever stood up for a regular rubbish service for families.

“It destroys the lazy left-wing myth than fortnightly bin collections are needed to save money or increase recycling. The fact is that people pay a lot of money in council tax and deserve a decent town hall service in return.

“The ‘bin bible’ shows how councils can have a comprehensive weekly service, drive up recycling and save money through common sense.”

Citing a recent YouGov poll which showed residents perceive waste collection to be the most important service that local authorities provide, Pickles said homeowners “deserve a first class service in return for their council tax”.

The 50-page “Guidance on Weekly Rubbish Collections” provides “a helpful insight into how all local authorities can continue to challenge how they organise their waste services” by tackling the reasons given by councils to drop weekly collections.

One of the “myths” is that councils can only meet tough European Union recycling targets, or face large fines.

According to the Telegraph, the guide says: “It is a clear myth that councils can’t get decent recycling rates without moving to a fortnightly collection of residual waste.”

It points to a number of councils with weekly collections – including those in Bournemouth, Bradford and Milton Keynes Council – which all send 50% or more of their household waste for reuse, recycling or composting.

The guide puts the Department for Communities and Local Government at odds with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. According to media reports, the guide suggests that Government stops telling people what to do – and says it is better to give them “a nudge in the right direction – than to tell them what to do and then punish them if they don’t obey”.

Attempts to force people to change their recycling habits – like bin fines – risked increasing fly-tipping or “backyard burning”.

Schemes that rewarded people for recycling – such as giving points which can be used as currency in local shops – are much more effective.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Communities and Local Government told that the guidance was due to published soon but did not confirm or deny what the Daily Mail/Telegraph had reported.

Last year Eric Pickles offered councils that keep or bring back weekly collections a share of £250m in incentive money from his ministry.  However, not enough have shifted back to weekly collections as expected. 

 Liz Gyekye

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