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‘Unworkable madness’​: DCN concerns about waste reform spark media interest

Published: 28 March 2023

‘Unworkable madness’​: DCN concerns about waste reform spark media interest

DCN concerns over the possible imposition of strict restrictions on how councils collect and process waste have attracted significant media interest.

We have expressed fears over how the possible standardisation of the waste system could limit councils’ discretion to design a system tailored to the unique geographical needs of their area.

The concerns have been restated in the run-up to last Friday when the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs indicated it would publish its long-awaited response to a 2021 consultation on waste consistency.

This was expected to reveal the extent councils would be made to follow rules on the timetable for separate food waste collections, garden waste and on the frequency of waste collections overall.

However, many councils believe this could result in them having to buy far bigger waste vehicle fleets at considerable cost and offer few, if any, environment benefits. Councils also point out the impact of geography, with – to use one example – waste collection taking a different form in urban areas with large numbers of flats to sparsely populated rural areas.

The BBC began the spate of coverage on Monday last week.

The UK government’s plans to introduce consistent waste collection policies across England could prove chaotic and unworkable, councils have warned, began the BBC News website’s story.

“The idea that standardisation – a national bin service – is the way forward makes absolutely no sense,” Cllr Peter Fleming, leader of Sevenoaks District Council told it.

On Tuesday, Cllr Sarah Nelmes, the leader of Three Rivers District Council and DCN waste spokesperson, spoke at length about the issue on BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme (pictured).

“Our concerns are that local councils know better what the needs are locally,” said Cllr Nelmes. You can listen to her interview here (2 hours 46 minutes in).

Next up was the Daily Mail. ‘UK government’s plan for a ‘National Bin Service’ with SIX types of collection is unworkable ‘madness’, councils warn, was its headline.

Among those quoted in its story was Charlotte Paine, head of environmental and operational services at South Holland District Council.

“Much depends on where your waste goes, your local recycling facility, and how well they can deal with that. That’s where this consistency is going to fall down,” she said.

The story subsequently went on to appear in the Daily Telegraph. “District Councils’ Network estimates that implementing recycling changes will cost almost half-a-billion pounds a year for seven years,” it said.

This was soon followed up (again) by the Daily Mail. This carried a DCN statement in full. “It should also be remembered that household waste equates to less than 15% of the UK’s total waste generation,” we said. “What’s needed now is a truly whole-system approach that focusses on reducing waste at all its sources and influencing consumer behaviour, rather than concentrating on collection methods.”

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