Fortnightly bin collections cut council costs through increased recycling

Improving recycling rates can save local authorities significant sums of money – and fortnightly bin collections have helped people to increase the amount of waste they recycle.

Currently, 30 per cent of waste in the London Borough of Waltham Forest is recycled, but this could be increased to as much as 70 per cent. Whereas recycling costs the council £40 per tonne of waste, sending a tonne of rubbish to landfill costs three times as much, at a staggering £120. With a potential 40% more total waste diverted from landfill, recycling is “one area where the savings can be potentially very significant”, said Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader of Waltham Forest Council and Chairman of North London Waste Authority. He added that “all residents need to do to help is simply recycle more” – and increasing household recycling is the aim of the council’s “Recycle: Can You Afford Not To?” campaign.

But are campaigns alone effective? Something else has increased recycling rates in many local authority areas: the introduction of fortnightly bin collections. When implemented along with separate food and other recyclable material collections, fortnightly collections have been successful, with most of the ten councils showing the largest increase in recycling during the last year (according to an analysis of Defra figures) being those which have adopted this measure. For example the London Borough of Southwark saw recycling increase from one third to half of the borough’s waste following the introduction of fortnightly collections in 2011.

It could be argued that because there is more time between collections, people are forced to recycle so they do not fill up their bins too quickly – and householders’ unhappiness about the switch from weekly collections has been widely reported. But fortnightly collections have contributed to 43% of household waste in England being recycled last year – a 32% improvement on the figure for 2000-01, reflecting a decrease of 36 million tonnes per year being diverted from landfill.

Recycling Lives supports any sensible, workable measure that stops waste from going to landfill, enabling it to be recycled at approved facilities and be reused in manufacturing. Apart from the positive effect on the environment, the figures quoted above for Waltham Forest show that recycling also makes sound financial sense for councils, saving them money and boosting their funds – an important consideration in the current difficult economic times.

Local authority measures must be backed with encouragement and education, so that people know why recycling is important. If people have the facts about recycling, they are more likely to be willing to do it – and a further fact about the Recycling Lives social business is that it is dedicated to sustaining charity through metal and waste recycling. It runs its own social welfare charity supporting homeless individuals to gain accommodation, training and employment; it also helps many other charities to increase their revenue through its Community Dotcom schemes, which also provide jobs for individuals who need employment. On top of environmental sustainability and cost savings, these are great reasons to improve household recycling!