Because I forget stuff. Part of

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Originally posted August 23 2005 at 15:08 under General. 2 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled.


Bemused and a little angry
The Strokes, Is This It?/Velvet Revolver, Contraband

York council recently delivered a leaflet explaining that ours is one of the 60000 houses to be affected by their new domestic rubbish policy. In brief this policy replaces the weekly, normal domestic rubbish collection (emptying of the “wheelie bin”) with fortnightly collections alternated with fortnightly collections of green garden refuse, in a specially supplied green wheelie bin. Here is why what may at first appear to be a fine decision to encourage less production of domestic rubbish is in fact an ill thought out pile of, well, rubbish.

Firstly York council must be congratulated on their thus far useful and forward thinking recycling policies. Numerous recycling facilities are readily available (although tend to require the use of a car) and the kerbside recycling scheme offers a truly convenient way to reuse waste (pity it doesn’t take cardboard though). However, this latest scheme is taking things too far, and in an illogical manner at that.

I do not have a large garden. The small garden present is laid mainly to lawn (typical!) with narrow borders. My immediate neighbours on one side have even less due to a conservatory. On the other side the garden is given over entirely to patio, so the greenery is minimal to extremes. The garden is probably smaller than average, but not by that much and the above shows that I’m in a “favourable” position. The upshot of this is that in even in summer I cannot produce a bin of garden waste every fortnight. I know this is true. It’s not like my current domestic rubbish bin is being overwhelmed by the amount of green waste I’m piling in it. Further, home composting (particularly useful to those with larger gardens) is encouraged (see this page for example and the composting bin offer). Even the supplied leaflet is encouraging such composting. In conclusion then, the council is supplying a bin I can’t really make use of and encouraging me not to even if I could. Given that, this policy amounts to nothing more than a straight forward 50% reduction in the domestic waste removal provision.

It gets worse though.

The idea behind reducing waste collections to biweekly is presumably to encourage recycling (there is admittedly also an encouragement to reduce the amount of waste produced in the first place. Given the unfortunate amount of packaging, etc. involved in modern living, and that a certain level of non-recyclable waste is unavoidable this can only be taken so far and it seems unlikely could be the major contributing factor). As previously mentioned the council operates a kerbside recycling scheme. The recycling box (and bag) is something I do consistently fill already. On a weekly basis. So what possible logic can underlie the decision to reduce kerbside recycling collections to fortnightly? I’m supposed to squeeze an increased amount of recycling into a halved service. That makes no sense. What are the people who collect the recycling (which is done independently of the bin emptying) going to be doing on the weeks they would have been here but now aren’t? (The same question doesn’t really apply to the people emptying bins. They are presumably trying to find someone who has actually filled a garden refuse bin).

Some figures may be useful here. I tried finding statistics on average garden size and rate of grass growth but failed miserably (if anyone knows, then do comment). We can however have a look inside a “typical waste bin” thanks to the council’s newsletter Your City (Issue 9, July 2005). This shows the make up of the typical bin to be: 32% paper and card, 8% metals, 2% textiles, 9% glass, 11% plastics, 21% kitchen and garden waste, and 17% other. It’s a pity these figures aren’t actually as useful as they could be and are, indeed, a little misleading. In the context of the current discussion it would be useful if we knew what proportion of “kitchen and garden waste” came from the garden (my guess would be a minority) and also what “metals” was made up from, for instance. Even accepting things as they are though it’s misleading to call this “typical”. It’s typical, if no recycling is in place. But the only additional recycling offered under this new scheme is that of garden waste (which is at best a fraction under 21% and probably less than 10%). The council’s argument is that there’s no problem so long as you take out the recyclables to leave the 17% other (and onto this ought to be added the proportion of plastics which aren’t bottles and therefore have no facilities readily available, plus some metals—they don’t want tin foil, paint cans, “other metals” in their boxes—Oh, and card and some glass must be taken to a central facility—cardboard is particularly difficult to get recycled). People like me are already recycling most of the so called waste bin contents. There’s not much more can be done. So, let’s be generous and say that garden waste consists of 15% (it doesn’t in my case I assure you, but for the sake of argument). That’s 15% of the total of course, but we’ve already seen a lot of that is recycled so say about 27% of what’s left. Add on an additional 3% for redoubling recycling efforts and we have a nice round 30% estimate for the amount of material taken from the bins by this scheme. That means 70% of what is there now is still left. So, in order for this fortnightly collection scheme to work the current state of the bin must be that it is less than 0.5/0.7~0.7, or 70% full on a weekly basis. I can say for myself that sometimes that’s true and sometimes it isn’t. What happens on the fortnights when it isn’t true one week? I doubt it can be made up in the other week. Where is the rubbish supposed to go? It probably doesn’t bear thinking about the fact I’ve been known to forgot to put the bin out…

This is a well meaning but ill thought out policy. By all means provide a method of recycling garden waste but don’t go to such pointless extremes—by contrast to this policy I can cite the scheme involved where I used to live in York. This kerbside recycling scheme wasn’t council run but organised by a volunteer group. It ran along essentially the same lines however, with the important addition that they would also remove and compost bags of green garden waste left with the normal recycling box. This is surely a more sensible model for the council to adopt to 60000 homes then their current implementation of providing a useless facility we are then encouraged not to make use of, while reducing the really useful kerbside collections.

Come to that, what are the public health implications of having to domestically store waste for up to fourteen days? Had I deliberately done so on a consistent basis with weekly collections, there would probably have been complaints. Not to mention that a holiday coinciding with the collection day could result in waste being stored for a month.

Throughout consultation periods the council have ignored and failed to address such concerns, pointing to a small number of “trial” schemes in areas of very different urban make up (notably these areas tend to be more rural and hence more likely to have a greater proportion of garden waste) as indicators that their policy will work (these schemes are still not without opposition from the local residents, and few have been running long enough to allow meaningful analysis). They don’t seem to feel a need for a trial scheme in York itself. Instead they steam roller ahead their scheme despite the direct opposition of the electorate. The reduction in recycling collections from weekly to fortnightly simply raises the all too strong suspicion that this all has little to do with environmental concern and much more to do with cost cutting.

Instead of encouraging York’s residents to see recycling as a “good thing” the council seems intent on putting them on a collision course with recycling. This can do nothing to raise the profile of responsible recycling. Instead it becomes perceived as an inconvenience forced upon them and hence something to be fought against rather than embraced. It is a great concern that not only will this scheme fail (costing more money to clean up the mess, so to speak) but it will harm future recycling efforts.

Comments (2):


Very well said! People throughout the UK are trying to fight these schemes - our experience is that they are far from being environmentally friendly. If capacity of the general waste bin is reduced it is thought that people will be forced to recycle. This has another attractive aspect to councils in that any education regarding recycling is kept to a minimum - a sticker or leaflet stating what goes where is all that is required.

Where fortnightly collections are in place (currently about 130 councils out of 477 UK councils) a large proportion of the recycling materials have to be landfilled because people place ordinary waste in recycling bins.

To join our free national Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection please visit

Made by Doretta on Sep 2, 2005 at 10:39


The single biggest problem is what the council actually take. OK, the box and bag are too small but why aren’t we allowed to put cardboard in there? What about plastic? Is all this just a way of York saying “Hey! We’re recycling” without really taking very much at all?

We keep a compost bin in the garden (something free from York btw, that was last years ‘thing’) and the need for a green waste bin is actually redundant for us.

I’d be happier with the approach used in Melbourne. 1 small green, 1 small general and 1 large recycle bin (paper, card, plastic, metal, glass etc) all emptied every week. It’s simple, it works and there’s so little general waste as 90% goes in the recycle bin.

Made by Ed on Sep 11, 2005 at 22:53

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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