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Recycling – a tale of two councils

Keith Parkins | 05.01.2007 11:47 | Analysis | Ecology

Two councils, one with an abysmal track record on recycling, the other the best performing council in the country.

"It's so simple. People can dump most of their recyclables in one big wheelie bin, which makes them more inclined to do it. And when it gets here we've got some pretty nifty kit that separates it all into glass, plastic and paper automatically - that's how we've achieved these brilliant results." -- Chris Mountain, managing director of Lincolnshire-based Mid UK Recycling

The Rotten Borough of Rushmoor (as it is known locally), is at 22-23% recycling, one of the worst performing councils in the country. It has a target of 40% by 2010, which again is not good.

The answer, according to the rubbish jobsworth supremo David Quirk, is to use recycling as an opportunity to cut the services to the public, the frequency of waste collection is to be halved. Non-compliant households are to be punished. A small army of bin police are to be employed, with the possibility of on-the-spot fines for non-compliance. Quirk does not like his rubbish policies being criticised and refuses to enter into dialogue with those who dare to criticise his rubbish policies.

North Kesteven achieves a recycling rate of just over 51%, making it the best performing council in the country. It achieves this high figure by having a simple system, by providing clear information on what goes into which bin, by working with the public and listening to what the public has to say.

North Kesteven provides each household with three wheelie bins

- paper, card, cans, bottles, textiles, plastics
- green waste
- residual waste

Every household receives a leaflet saying when collections take place, detailing what goes into each category.

At one time North Kesteven had a box system (what Rushmoor is wishing to introduce), but withdrew when it was found not to be popular with the public.

As North Kesteven has said to me, 'it's not rocket science'. They have introduced a simple system, work with the public. In conversation with myself, they say their success is as much the public's success as their own success, as without the help and support of the public, they would not achieve in excess of 50%.

Unlike Rushmoor, that has gone with its begging bowl to Defra for cash, North Kesteven has been entirely funded by local taxpayers.

If we look overseas, countries that are easily exceeding 60% recycling have had a long-term commitment to recycling. This is also true in North Kesteven, a long-term commitment to recycling which dates back to the early 90s. Unlike Rushmoor, which is jumping to EU diktats.

North Kesteven has its own in-house domestic refuse collection (of which it is justifiably proud), Rushmoor employs external contractors. The emphasis in North Kesteven is on value for money, not short-term, cost saving.

The norm across the country is that the local council collects the household refuse, the county council disposes of the refuse. Not in North Kesteven. Because of their longterm commitment to recycling, they work directly with a private recycling company, Mid UK Recycling.

Lincolnshire-based Mid UK Recycling are able to recycle or reuse 92% of what they receive.

North Kesteven recognises that the household is only one link at the end of the waste chain. They see the need for manufacturers to make products that can easily be disassembled at the end of their lifetimes into their component parts, of the need for supermarkets to reduce waste. To this end they have joined forces with the other local authorities in Lincolnshire to lobby for change.

Contrast this with the attitude of Rushmoor jobsworth Quirk, who sees this as someone else's problem, not his.

North Kesteven operate an alternative weekly collection service, but they say that is not why they achieve high recycling rates, they put it down to a simple system, working with the local community.

If your performance is bad, you look to best practice, to see what improvement may be made. But the arrogant officials at Rushmoor think they know best. The irony is, that what the local community say they want, is what is already practised in North Kesteven. What they have said they do not want is a reduction in service, but no one at the council is listening, least of all the arrogant rubbish supremo Quirk.

You do not achieve high recycling rates, get the help and support of the public, if you do as they are doing in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, go out of your way to alienate and antagonise the local community.

It is not only on recycling and refuse collection where the two councils differ. Rushmoor publishes a glossy magazine Arena, full of garbage which goes straight in the bin. North Kesteven publishes a newspaper Linkline, full of useful information.

The fundamental difference is that North Kesteven talks to the public and heeds what they say. In the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor even councillors who dare to question let alone criticise what is going on find themselves victimised.



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Keith Parkins
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Display the following 4 comments

  1. Are you obsessed with bins? — RVR800
  2. conspiracy bollocks — mother goose
  3. further information .... — Keith
  4. waste — Keith