Friday, 2 September 2011

Recycling, still lagging behind.

A report from Flanders (Belgium) on BBC Breakfast this morning described how local authorities have addressed recycling and household waste issues. It seems to be the same formula introduced in Luxembourg in 1997, where every household had their waste and recycling bins electronically chipped to register how much weight was collected from each home.

The key to introducing the change in Luxembourg was excellent communication and a fair system of reward. Backed by statistics of average weight collected per household, itemised council tax bills showed the cost attributed to waste collection. This element was removed from the charge when the new 'chip' system started, replaced by details of the weight of recycling collected at a cost of x (cheap) and waste collected at y (more expensive). In most cases, this worked out to the same or less, providing a controllable incentive to become 'greener' and save money.

At that time, only compostable waste was collected. As in most western European countries, large containers for glass, paper, plastics, etc. are placed on street corners and collected regularly. In fact, in many countries, all waste is collected daily from large containers placed within communities rather than from each house once a fortnight. Managed efficiently, this could reduce the burden on council tax payers in suitable communities in Britain.

Way back in 1998 when my local council invited people to share their ideas for recycling, I submitted the Luxembourg case study. I did get a 'thank you' but here we are, years later, still failing to encourage people to recycle, still focusing on fines for non-compliance rather than rewards for our efforts.