The three weekly bin collection which sees councils collect rubbish only every three weeks (as opposed to fortnightly) was piloted last year in the Welsh county of Powys. Not only will it help the council massively reduce costs, with estimates from Lets Recycle suggesting that it will save the council close to half a million pounds each year. But it is also hoped to help meet the Welsh government’s target of having a 64% recycling rate by 2020. An ambition the council are well on their way to achieving with a 52.1% recycling rate recorded only last year.

However, it is our very own northern county of Bury has the somewhat auspicious honour of being the first region in England to introduce a three weekly collection rota for waste.

Brought in under the ‘Bury Zero Waste Strategy’, a strategy introduced in 2015 to expand upon the already promising recycling rates of Greater Manchester it hopes to “prevent waste, increase education and maximise recycling.” According to the proposal 75% of household waste could be recycled which in 2014/15 could have saved the council close to £7million. The aim is to have a recycling rate of between 55% and 60% by March 2015 and over 60% by March 2016, with the hope of saving more than £800,000 annually.

Of course, given the council has plans to cut its budget by an estimated £32 million it is unsurprising they are seeking to reduce weekly bin collection, not only will it save money, but it will increase recycling rates. If households are unable to dispose of waste using kerbside bins the council hopes they will look to alternative methods. However, there has been plenty of criticism with residents protesting that this has little to do with recycling and far more to do with saving money whatever the cost to health and sanitary conditions. A money saving package wrapped neatly with an environmentally friendly bow.

So what has the effect been? A not uncontroversial measure there have been concerns over waste spilling into the streets creating unsanitary (and rather potent) conditions. In fact, a Facebook group with close to 6,000 likes was entitled “Say NO to 3 weekly bin collections” and used some pretty emotive imagery including a picture of a number of rats. Not only had that but a petition opposing the move gained 2,000 signatures. Since the switch, there have been a number of articles claiming that there has been a 20% increase in complaints about rats, and according to the Daily Mail there is a concern that the mild winter could trigger a plague of “super rats.”


However, whilst many are concerned, there has undoubtedly been a positive change in the amount recycled. According to the Bury Times paper and cardboard waste has increased by 673 tonnes and plastic by 726 tonnes with recycling rates overall increasing by 9%.

In fact, the measure has been seen as so successful that Bury (perhaps for the first time in its long and glorious history) has found itself a trendsetter. Falkirk, Airth and Letham city council to name just a few are all now looking to trail the three weekly bin collection with more likely to follow.

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