Waste industry debates AWC

Waste operators have hit back at the "media tirade" against fortnightly rubbish collections saying the system can work.

Leading waste and recycling experts held a conference in London this month to address the highly charged issue of local authorities switching from traditional weekly to Alternate Weekly Collections (AWC).

Chris Lee, head of policy and strategy with the waste division of Mouchel Parkman which provides services for councils and private operators, said: “We’ve all seen the arguments against and the media tirade focusing on the fears of rat and fly infestation but we’ve heard little about the many local authorities that are actually benefiting from successful changes to their waste and recycling programmes. It’s far from doom and gloom despite what you may read.”

The conference titled Alternate Weekly Collection – unnecessary cut-back or logical next step was attended by local authority and private sector delegates.

Under the AWC system general non-recyclable rubbish is collected one week and recyclable the next.

Proponents say it boosts recycling and composting and minimises waste to landfill as householders finding their bins for non-recyclable rubbish filling up are encouraged to use space in ‘green’ bins.

Critics, however, complain collecting rubbish fortnightly instead of weekly creates hygiene issues – including bad smells, maggots and vermin.

One national newspaper has launched a campaign to save weekly collections.

But a Local Government Association (LGA) study has found councils that have made the switch to fortnightly collections show an average recycling rate of 30 percent compared to 23 percent for those that have not.

LGA chairman Sandy Bruce-Lockhart has said the days of throwing away rubbish without worry are over with landfill taxes set to rise in coming years and councils face mounting pressure to cut the amount going to landfill.

Martin Salter, Reading West MP, and one time dustman, told the conference: “Local councillors must hold their nerve, get the right messages across and be flexible enough to accommodate the necessary variations in service.”

A website has been set up to debate the issue at www.alternateweeklyforum.org

David Gibbs

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