Weekly Collection Debate Heats Up Pickles’ Session At RWM

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, addressed attendees at the RWM in partnership with CIWM exhibition today (17 September,) with the clear message that his stance has not changed in his campaign to “bring back” the weekly bin collection.

The Minister outlined the DCLG position on the weekly collection of refuse, citing numerous times that if a public vote were to be conducted the results would clearly show that it’s what residents want.

Pickles pointed to what the department had done so far to persuade councils to move back to weekly collections, which includes funding for councils to introduce a weekly waste collection and the recently announced £5m incentive pot, which offers cash to incentivise residents to recycle more – but only to councils that offer a weekly collection.

He reiterated his position that “evidence shows” councils with weekly collections can recycle just as much as councils that offer a fortnightly service.

He also said one reason why recycling rates had stagnated in England was because of the proliferation of schemes that run up and down the country

He also said one reason why recycling rates had stagnated in England was because of the proliferation of schemes that run up and down the country.

During a fiery question and answer session, one audience member asked why, when quoting statistics, does the Minister not mention that high recycling performing councils with fortnightly collections out-number those with weekly collections “by about ten”.

In response, Pickles said that those councils had been “bullied” into a fortnightly process, and again proposed gauging public opinion, guaranteeing the majority would want a weekly refuse collection.

Referring to the DCLG funding to persuade councils to revert back to weekly collections, one audience member asked him: “Why is it you think you know better for our residents than we do?”

Pickles retorted: “I’m not in the business of training electorates; I’m in the business of giving them what they want. The majority want a weekly collection. Put it to a vote. See what happens.”

When CIWM chief executive and chair of the session, Steve Lee, proposed an audience participation vote to gauge whether people believe weekly collections can help reduce costs for local authorities, Pickles accused Lee of abusing his position of chair to “push his own agenda”.

After which, CIWM past President, Derek Greedy, referred back to Pickles’ comment that waste containers are cheaper in Germany. He said that Pickles had failed to mention that in Germany they offer, in some areas, a monthly collection of refuse and “they are very successful”.

Pickles simply replied: “Are you seriously trying to tell me bins are cheaper because of monthly collections? He then said no more and asked for another question.



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  1. If councils had any brains they would have looked at the costs and environmental footprints of the hair-brained collection and treatment schemes they operate. As long as taxpayers are dumbfounded by complex lists at consultations and general waffle, they lose interest. The main beneficiaries are the contractors who are happy to operate any scheme the councils come up with to claim increased recycling. Commercial confidentiality is the usual excuse not to divulge facts about the council’s internal technical and contracting processes.

    • Some sense among these comments: it would help if we had a more standardised approach across the UK (mind you in Scotland it’s the Councils’ own staff who collect waste). But the facts are the waste diversion and recycling targets have to be met if we’re to avoid swingeing fines from the EU. And of course the contracting process has to conform with EU Procurement Regulations.

  2. Mr Pickles is a fine one to accuse Steve Lee of ‘abusing his position…….to push his own agenda’ given that he has done exactly that since being appointed Communities’ Secretary. While as a member of the public he is entitled to his minority (some might say minuscule) view on weekly collections, it it outrageous that he uses his position as a senior member of the Government to try to inflict it on the rest of us. He offers no alternative ideas for meeting the diversion and recycling targets. And if he wants to ‘put it to a vote’ why doesn’t he have another look at the 2010 poll in Dartford (that his staff often quote when trying to support his views)? ‘94.5% of residents voted to retain weekly collections.’ Closer inspection reveals however that less than 11% of Dartford’s citizens actually voted (confirmed by Mr Pickles’ Department) meaning over 89% were either happy with fortnightly collections or couldn’t be bothered voting. Come into the real world Mr Pickles: there are far more important issues facing H M Government than how often the rubbish is collected from your house. It won’t be a vote-winner next year.

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