Thursday, 27 June 2013

Why Not Wheelie Bins in Cornwall?

Because of Cornwall Council’s dysfunctional approach to waste collection and disposal over the last ten years, which was further confused by the move to a Unitary Authority, this subject is still a source of heated debate and dissatisfaction. Residents who live in houses where it would be appropriate often say that they would like wheelie bins. On the other hand, people who live in terraced houses, for example, which front directly onto a narrow pavement, say quite rightly that wheelie bins would not work for them, because they would have to bring them through the house and have them blocking the pavement on collection day.

But from a cost aspect, it makes sense to operate a single system throughout the area, particularly in view of the Chancellors recent decisions around local government.

Some years ago, Carrick District Council wanted to start a separate food waste collection. The idea was that with a separate food waste collection, residual waste (black bag waste) would be significantly reduced, and would no longer attract vermin. This would allow a considerable saving by collecting residual waste fortnightly instead of weekly. That move in itself would encourage a better uptake of the recycling collection. There would be an overall saving, with money being made from both recycling, and composting of the food waste. Additionally, when a resident saw how much food waste he produced, he would adjust his shopping habits to waste less and save himself money on his shopping.

The research which underpinned this proposal showed that in other areas, schemes designed along these lines had been highly successful, achieving all the benefits listed above. However, the then Cornwall County Council were quick to stop the proposal, for the simple and misguided reason that it would deprive the proposed St Dennis incinerator of feedstock.

Since that time Cornwall has moved from being one of the leading recycling counties to being very near the bottom of the recycling league table.

A relatively small food waste container being collected weekly would be cheaper and easier to manage than the standard wheelie bin and would not need specialised vehicles (depending on the design). The residual waste would be cleaner and odour free, eliminating the very prevalent vermin problem. Once the system was bedded in, residual waste, significanty reduced by the removal of food waste, could be collected fortnightly, with a consequential massive saving. Recycling, collected weekly, would increase, providing additional income to offset some of the waste collection costs.

The likelihood of any of this happening in Cornwall is minimal, for political reasons rather than practical ones. The last administration have already shown that political expediency was more important than financial, and so far this administration appears to row the same boat in the same direction!

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