Economic conditions have hit recycling but North Hertfordshire District Council, are keeping up an exceptionally ambitous programme. Cllr Lynda Needham, portfolio holder for recycling and wate, reports.

It is now some 15 months since we implemented a change of refuse collection and recycling.  Prior to this we had collected paper, glass and organic at the kerbside.  To encourage residents to recycle more we took two decisions, collect more items at the kerbside and then collect residual waste bi weekly.

We were receiving two messages from residents, please do not alter our collection system (we were reviewing this whilst the Daily Mail were clamouring for householders nationally to object to any changes in the system) and also a strong green lobby to do more and do it now.

Our initial objectives were to collect at the kerbside, glass, paper,
cardboard, green waste, steel, aluminium and plastic bottles (which was
the only plastic type that could be economically recycled at that
time). Plastics were a vital element to remove from the residual waste
bin, although of low weight, volume was the issue, if residual waste
collected fortnightly was to be agreeable to our taxpayers.

Costs reared their head at this point, and plastic collection had to be
by the "bring to bank" system and not kerbside. Convincing our
electorate that this was not a money saving exercise, whilst not
reducing their council tax, but was in actual fact more expensive, even
allowing for sales of recycling receipts has not been an easy exercise.
We have 4 towns and 33 villages, so opted for a minimum of 70 banks to
ensure relatively nearby collection point.  Many villages, however,
declined to have a bank.

However, 15 months on, we have introduced kitchen waste into our
recycling stream, our recycling percentage has risen from 36% to 45%,
and our reduction in methane producing kitchen waste going to landfill
has been noticed by the landfill operators.  We still view ourselves as
being in the learning curve period and our percentage of complaints
from the 54,000 households we collect from is well below 2%.

Obviously we are very vigilant for small neighbourhood fly tipping and
are constantly looking forward to trade recycling and extra items to
collect at the kerbside.  Continually repeating the environment
protection message is essential, and also notifying the electorate of
how well they are doing is vital, because at the end of the day it is
down to them.

The present economic climate has brought many concerns, and like most
other authorities the price of recycling goods dropping to practically
nothing is a problem and a headache and in some cases has dropped to
nothing together with a refusal to take the goods even for free.  Our
present goal is to make sure we are not forced turn the clock back and
send our hard won recycling efforts by our residents back to landfill.