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Bin collection is a class issue

Lots of interesting material from the transcript of Eric Pickles giving evidence to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee last week.

The Labour MP Heidi Alexander asked about bin collections:

Heidi Alexander Why is your Department funding weekly collections of black bags, when it is obvious from DEFRA’s website and councils’ own websites that councils with a fortnightly collection of residual waste actually have higher recycling rates?

Mr Pickles: We have not announced the scheme, so I am amazed that you seem to have some kind of insight into the scheme that we producing. We will be producing it in early January. We hope we can. We are basically trying to do three things. We are trying to increase procurement, which we have just been talking about. There are a lot of small authorities that collect waste that perhaps are not getting the best deal, so we are encouraging them to pull together. The second thing we are doing is we are prepared to pay upfront for some capital equipment, for stuff where it is now possible to mechanically separate biological waste. We are also interested in encouraging incentive schemes to recycle.

To cut across all this, I think it is an example where we, as a political class, have got out of kilter with what the public want. What I want to do is to see increasing rates of recycling but try to go with the grain of what people are doing. I know sometimes I talk in folksy and tabloidy terms and I apologise. I am not going to do that, but what I basically want to do is to ensure that we are not going to have some stinking carcass kicking around for a fortnight. I want to be able to remove that biological waste for all kinds of reasons. Actually, if you will forgive me for saying this - strangely for a Conservative MP talking to a Labour MP - I think it is almost a class issue. It is kind of okay if you have got a biggish house with a big garden, and you can put the remains of food down at the back of the garden. If you are in a terraced house and it is right next to you, that is not a pleasant experience. All I am seeking is that authorities that want to do so, without sacrificing recycling, can deliver to the public what the public wants and to make conditions such that we do not force people into recycling by making their life unpleasant.


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