Staggering 95% vote against alternate weekly waste collection

Virtually all the residents who took part in a council poll asking if they would like to see weekly waste collections replaced by a one-week-on, one-week-off system for recyclable and non-recyclable waste voted against change.

Alternate Weekly Collection (AWC) has long been a controversial issue, with high-profile opponents including Tony Blair and Ken Livingstone.

But the full scale of the unpopularity of such schemes, in one borough at least, became clear this week when Dartford Borough Council bravely decided to hold a referendum on the subject.

An overwhelming 94.5% of those who answered the council’s Big Bin Vote survey asked to retain the existing weekly collections.

Authorities favouring AWC argue that it leads to an increase in recycling as residents are more careful when it comes to sorting waste.

But those opposed have called it a cost-cutting exercise which could pose problems for households storing waste and potentially lead to an increase in vermin infestation and even disease.

Almost 90% of residents responding to the Dartford survey said they were not reassured by Government information suggesting that there was no evidence of increased health risk with AWC, while half accepted they could probably recycle more.

Respondents also asked for bigger recycling bins and urged the council to increase the range of materials which could be recycled in kerbside schemes.

The council now plans to do both these things.

Cllr Jeremy Kite (Cons), Leader of Dartford Borough Council, said the vote was enormously important to sort out the mass of conflicting information and advice flowing from central government on the issue of waste and recycling.

“We’ve had a massive response from residents which goes to show that refuse collection is a very important subject and people want to have their say,” he said.

“We’re here to do our best for residents and that’s what we intend to do.

“Feedback from residents also shows that the Government’s reassurances over alternate weekly collections are falling on deaf ears.

“People don’t agree that rotting food waste can be stored in a bin for up to two weeks without some serious effect on the environment – a view I happen to share.”

“Many responses also included comments from residents which we will use to improve the existing service and address known issues such as flats and large families. We need to work with residents to ensure we reduce the waste we throw away and increase the levels of waste we can reuse and recycle.”

The Local Government Association – a stalwart defender of local authorities’ right to introduce AWC where appropriate – told edie that the vote would not alter its position.

“These things are best dealt with by the council that understands the needs of the people in the local area,” said a spokesperson.

“[However] we’re firmly in favour of AWC and we stick to our guns on that.”

She said that AWC had a role to play in helping to reduce pressure on landfill sites and therefore could reduce council tax as authorities would not have to pay ever-increasing gate fees at landfill sites.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie