Sending backlogs to landfill: Learning lessons

How should councils deal with unusual backlogs of waste? This happened over the Christmas period in Rochdale, when refuse collectors took leave.

The backlog resulted from a missed collection over the Christmas period because refuse collectors had, quite properly, taken three days’ unpaid leave during the holiday, meaning extra waste accumulated in some parts of the town. To deal with it, the decision was made that some general waste and recyclable materials in different bins would be mixed together in one truck and go to landfill, reports the Manchester Evening News.

The decision was defended by Councillor Martin Burke as being necessary in order to empty the bins as quickly as possible. Councillor Burke added:

“The vast majority of residents did comply with the waste collection arrangements…for which we thank them. Unfortunately, there were a small number of areas where recycling and waste bins had been put out together for collection whether they were due to be collected or not. We took the decision in these areas to empty all bins rather than be selective and leave a trail of overflowing bins and side waste behind.”

The Manchester Evening News reports that the same course of action will not be taken again, a decision demonstrating that the local authority has learned from what happened. Recycling Lives understands that councils, having dealt with some major changes lately, are finding their resources stretched. Sometimes, difficult decisions have to be made that may not lead to the best course of action, and whilst it would obviously have been preferable to separate the waste and divert as much as possible from landfill, we have no doubt that Rochdale Council weighed up the situation and took the least damaging course of action under the circumstances.

We would urge householders to continue separating their domestic waste into the bins that their local authority provides. What happened in Rochdale was, after all, highly irregular.

With Easter coming up, make sure you check your council’s website to see whether there are any changes to bin collections because of the two Bank Holidays, Good Friday and Easter Monday. While Easter may not have as big an impact as Christmas in terms of household waste generated across the UK, there will doubtless be some extra cardboard and plastic going into people’s bins because of the Easter eggs – and, because of the four-day weekend, perhaps a few extra bottles and cans.

So make sure you check when your collection is, and separate the rubbish as usual. It will help refuse collectors to get the job done as quickly as possible, the right way!