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A senior adviser on waste issues for the Local Government Association (LGA) has suggested that councils will be resistant to measures to enforce a ‘consistent collection system’ across England.

The cautionary note over consistency came from LGA adviser Hilary Tanner during a debate titled ‘Localism vs Consistency’ at the LARAC – Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee – Conference in Nottingham on Wednesday (12 October).  She defended the right of local authorities to pick services which best suit their localities.

Ms Tanner’s comments followed the publication of work by WRAP aimed at promoting consistency and harmonisation within recycling collection services. This has identified three preferred systems for the collection of residual waste, food waste and dry.

Focus on improving the consistency of recycling collections between authorities was initiated by the former Defra minister Rory Stewart.


The LGA adviser claimed that the agenda towards greater consistency should be supported as an ‘aspiration’ but said that councils should retain control over local service provision.

She said:

“Local government is doing a really good job. We have done a lot of heavy lifting – and we wouldn’t be where we are today without the work that local authorities have done. It is a brave politician who makes their voters irate over the bins – it is always going to be a political issue.

“Maybe the focus should not be on the detail – let councils get on with it. Localism is our script at the LGA – people who know the streets know how to design the services.”

Ms Tanner added:

“With consistency it is helpful to have that articulation of an aspiration, but many of us don’t start from an ideal world. We have to be careful about what we aspire to and what we can deliver. If I unpack consistency it looks to me like local government is being asked to do more from within its own budgets.”


Also speaking during the debate was Andy Rees, head of waste strategy at the Welsh Government – who outlined work in Wales to encourage a consistent collection system between councils through a collections blueprint. The blueprint favours the kerbside sort method for collecting dry recyclables.

Mr Rees said:

“We carried out a review of that system and concluded that kerbside sort still delivers the best outcomes. If you look at the WRAP report of those systems I am sure you’ll agree that comes out as the best service.”

“Maybe the focus should not be on the detail – let councils get on with it. Localism is our script at the LGA – people who know the streets know how to design the services.”

Mr Rees added that 13 of Wales’ 22 local authorities are now using the blueprint model for collections – but he added that the Welsh Government is not keen to force councils into the system where it is unlikely to be popular.

He said:

“We have not prescribed the system because we understand that if you force someone to do something they will not do it well.”

Ray Georgeson, chief executive of the reprocessing sector trade body the Resource Association also spoke in favour of greater consistency in service provision.

In particular, Mr Georgeson highlighted WRAP’s framework, which he claimed provides a ‘solid evidence base’ in favour of kerbside-sort recycling collection, restriction of residual waste and weekly food waste collection, which he urged councils to consider.


WRAP chief executive Marcus Gover also joined the panel from the audience to respond to comments from Islington’s waste strategy manager Matthew Homer, who asked if the consistency agenda should focus on the materials collected and not the collection method itself.

Mr Homer also challenged the assertion that kerbside sort is ultimately a more efficient and cheaper system than commingled collection.

Mr Gover said:

“It is not a simple one size fits all situation,” adding that WRAP would continue to develop a ‘business case’ to establish which systems work best in different environments. “We are trying to help you with the options, that is what this is all about,” he said.


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