New study shows fortnightly collection can increase recycling

Jan 23, 2013

A new study from the University of Southampton, which investigated the controversial alternate weekly collection (AWC) system for residual waste and recyclables, has found that a switch from weekly to fortnightly collection increased recycling rates by up to 9 per cent and reduced collection costs.

Although the majority of local authorities in England and Wales currently operate AWCs, their impact on recycling rates and waste reduction hasn't been monitored before. There has also been to the scheme, with the communities department (DCLG) providing a £250m three-year fund to encourage councils to maintain or revert to weekly collections. (ENDS Report 455, December 2012, pp. 18-19).

Professor Ian Williams, from the University's Centre for Environmental Sciences (CES) led the study which is the most comprehensive that has been completed on AWC systems. It compared what happened in Lichfield, Staffordshire, when the district council switched from collecting commingled dry recyclables from around 2,000 households once a week to once every fortnight. The collections alternated with separate collections of residual waste and kitchen/garden waste.

Single and dual-stream household waste collection trials were conducted between March and June 2009 in Lichfield and compared to previous kerbside collection. The single stream collection method required residents to place all recyclables into one 240-litre wheeled bin, while in the dual stream method residents placed glass, steel and aluminium cans, and mixed plastics in a 240-litre wheeled bin and used the existing recycling boxes for paper and .

The trials examined changes to frequency of collection, type of container issued, amounts of sorting required of residents, household participation and productivity levels. A survey of households was completed before any changes were implemented.

Professor Williams says: "This study has clearly shown that the adoption of an AWC scheme positively impacted on recycling rates and household behaviour, with no obvious adverse impacts on public participation, household waste arisings, public health or the local environment. Participation and set-out rates and operator productivity levels also showed an increase during the trial period. The findings are embarrassing for Mr Pickles and the Government, as it highlights that their current policies are at odds with the evidence."

Over the three months, the dual stream performed better than the single stream, collecting an average of 5.94 kg/hh/week compared to an average of 5.63 kg/hh/week, while the single stream system showed a greater increase in the weight of material collected (0.53 kg/hh/week vs. 0.48 kg/hh/week). However, although the study found that the dual stream produced consistently more recyclate per household, it had several disadvantages. These included higher costs in terms of staff time and vehicles, greater complexity in explaining to householders, more difficulty for collection crews to manage, and more manual handling of boxes which was likely to increase staff health and safety concerns.

After the trials concluded, Lichfield decided to roll out the single stream fortnightly recyclate collections in wheeled bins to all areas, achieving reduced collection costs and greater recyclate collection.

Explore further: Pact with devil? California farmers use oil firms' water

Related Stories

Towards better recovery of waste resources

Jan 16, 2013

A considerable amount of valuable raw materials is lost in waste utilization and processing chains. It would be worth, for example, effecting better recovery of the valuable metals contained in electronic equipment. Research ...

Recommended for you

Gimmicks and technology: California learns to save water

Jul 03, 2015

Billboards and TV commercials, living room visits, guess-your-water-use booths, and awards for water stinginess—a wealthy swath of Orange County that once had one of the worst records for water conservation ...

Cities, regions call for 'robust' world climate pact

Jul 03, 2015

Thousands of cities, provinces and states from around the world urged national governments on Thursday to deliver a "robust, binding, equitable and universal" planet-saving climate pact in December.

Will climate change put mussels off the menu?

Jul 03, 2015

Climate change models predict that sea temperatures will rise significantly, including in the tropics. In these areas, rainfall is also predicted to increase, reducing the salt concentration of the surface ...

As nations dither, cities pick up climate slack

Jul 02, 2015

Their national governments hamstrung by domestic politics, stretched budgets and diplomatic inertia, many cities and provinces have taken a leading role—driven by necessity—in efforts to arrest galloping ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.