27 May 2011
Local councils wanting to improve recycling performance and cut the rising cost of expensive waste disposal should give their residents separate wheeled bins for collecting co-mingled dry recycling and refuse, and empty them on alternate weeks. According to a new research report published today by global consultancy WYG and recycling specialist Biffa Municipal, most of Britain’s top councils for collecting dry recycling use this combination.
WYG’s researchers analysed official WasteDataFlow information, submitted to central government by local councils for the year 2009-10, to identify the top councils for collecting dry recycling, and the most improved, and see what could have driven their success.
According to the data analysis, the highest waste diversion performance comes from:
Wheeled bins of 240 litres capacity are recommended for co-mingled recyclables as they can easily hold five times more than a recycling box, making fortnightly collections fully viable. Reducing wheeled bins to 180 or 140 litres for refuse, or collecting refuse fortnightly, also stimulates more recycling, as illustrated by the top improvers.
The most improved dry recycling council, Biffa-serviced Surrey Heath Borough Council, changed its recycling service in 2009 and increased its dry recycling yield by 270 per cent, adding 130 kg to reach 178 kg per household per year (kg/hh/pa). It switched from weekly sack collections of two-stream recyclables and refuse to alternate week collections (AWC) of fully co-mingled dry recyclables and refuse from wheeled bins.
Another Biffa customer, South Oxfordshire District Council, had the second-highest overall dry recycling yield, 271 kg/hh/pa, after launching a new recycling and refuse service focused on AWC, co-mingled recyclables and wheeled bins. Combined with weekly food and fortnightly green waste collection, this enabled South Oxfordshire to hit a recycling and composting rate of over 70% within just nine months, probably the best in the UK.
Len Attrill, WYG Project Director, said: “The report adds unbiased, objective evidence to the compendium of knowledge that local authorities should, indeed must, use to inform their decision-making on how to improve local recycling.
“The findings highlight that changing to a fully co-mingled dry recycling collection service using a wheeled bin has brought about yield increases of up to 270 per cent in dry recycling.”
He added: “The evidence is irrefutable. Factors like co-mingling, wheeled bins and fortnightly refuse collection can and do markedly lift recycling performance while often saving costs. In today’s tough climate of budget austerity, it’s vital that councils make sound decisions about important local services.”
He pointed to government agency WRAP, which recently changed its position on co-mingling. “Its previous reports on recycling collections had consistently endorsed kerbside-sorted collections. However, a 2011 report on Welsh recycling admits that, all other factors being equal, average yields for co-mingled collections are expected to be nearly 12 per cent more than with kerbside sort for weekly collections, and over 22 per cent higher than kerbside sort for fortnightly collections.”
Of the top 30 dry recycling councils in 2009-10:
Taken as a whole, alternate week collections, co-mingling and wheeled bins can deliver meaningful cost savings through fewer vehicles and crew, reduced mileage, increased income from recycling processors which pay for recyclables received, and reduced landfill fees and tax (the latter now £56 per tonne).
Recycling reprocessors are also now willing to pay a premium even for unsorted dry recyclates. Local councils get paid for their co-mingled materials which the processors then sort and sell on.
Mr Attrill concluded: “Ultimately, local authorities have to choose what is best for their local needs. Wheeled bins and co-mingling may not be appropriate in all areas and no system guarantees high performance. This report provides information so councils can make informed decisions appropriate for their own circumstances.”
The WYG research report, ‘Review of Kerbside Recycling Collection Schemes in the UK in 2009/10’ is available as a free download from www.wyg.com/recyclingreview or by email from firstname.lastname@example.org