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New study shows fortnightly collection can increase recycling

Adoption of fortnightly waste collections has a positive impact on recycling rates and household behaviour, new research has shown. The results also contradict claims that the economics for commingling stack up far better than kerbside sorting due to the high volumes that can be achieved.

The research, carried out by Southampton University's waste management research group, was based on extensive trials at Lichfield District Council, one of the top 20 performing waste collection authorities in England since 2000.

Two trials were executed where single and dual stream collections methods for alternate weekly collections were evaluated, and performance was compared with the previous weekly system. Researchers also examined changes to collection frequency, the type of container issued to households, the amount of sorting required of residents, household participation and productivity levels.

The trial findings revealed that reducing the frequency of collections did not have a negative impact on the yield of recyclates collected. Both the dual and single stream trials saw an increase in the amount of recyclates collected per household during the trial period compared to the same period of time in the previous year (with weekly collections).

Interestingly, the dual stream option was better for obtaining maximum yields of recyclates while the single stream proved significantly cheaper in terms of vehicle and staff costs, was far easier for the crew to manage operationally and was easier for residents to understand.

Despite some political opposition and a vociferous campaign by national media, most local authorities in the UK have chosen to adopt an alternate weekly collection of residual waste and recyclables, primarily to save on costs and increase the volume of waste recycled.

While the idea behind alternate weekly collections is to encourage households to recycle more, some commentators have challenged the degree to which this system maximises waste collections.

The findings from the study will be published shortly in the Science of the Total Environment journal.

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