It is now some years since a local resident challenged me to defend the cost of bringing a refuse freighter down his road every week to collect quarter-full household waste bins.
And since then the range of materials which can be recycled has increased still further. That steady movement of materials from the non-recycling household waste bin to the recycling bin and, of course, to the recycling facilities at the County Council Waste and Recycling Centres, has reached a point where it is time for Horsham District Council to recognise these changes in its waste collection arrangements.
The roll-out of these new household waste collection arrangements, starting on 5th February, will bring us into line with our neighbouring district authorities of Mid-Sussex and Chichester and with 76 per cent of all waste collection authorities in the country. So, in a sense we are playing catch-up.
And what has been the experience of all those authorities?
Firstly, although change is never popular, and tends to bring some vocal opposition, the new arrangements elsewhere have settled down well and there has been no on-going public concern.
Secondly, the change has encouraged an increase in recycling of an average of four to six per cent. In Horsham’s case, it has been suggested that the increase in recycling could be in the range of six to nine per cent.
Given that there is a statutory requirement for West Sussex to achieve a 50 per cent recycling rate for domestic waste by 2020 -and we are currently at 44 per cent - this will help us achieve that target – a target which, if missed, will result in financial penalties that will ultimately fall on local residents. And we know that, on average, some 20 per cent of the material left in the residual waste bin could be recycled.
Thirdly, the change will save the Council money which will enable us to maintain essential public services against a backdrop of declining income.
Many people do not realise that local authorities are bearing the brunt of austerity whilst other areas of public expenditure have been ring-fenced. As a result, we need to work to a future where we will receive no government grants and will need to be totally self-financing.
Letters are being sent to residents indicating their new bin collection day in their collection zone and giving further information about the changes.
So if, say, it is on a Wednesday, then one week on a Wednesday will be the residual household bin collection and on the same day the following week will be the collection of recycling, both the blue top bin recycling bin and the green waste bin (where people have signed up to the garden waste service).
As a result of these new arrangements and the simultaneous re-introduction of rear-end loading refuse freighters to replace the ageing side-loaders, there will need to be some changes to the location of bins.
Firstly, from the start of the new collection arrangements, bins will now need to be positioned with the handles pointing towards the road and not away from the road.
Secondly, in some areas it will no longer be feasible, particularly on recycling weeks, to put bins on one side of the road, for example in roads with closely positioned terraces and also where there are narrow single track lanes.
Hence it may be necessary to place the bins where it is safe and practical which may be outside one’s own property rather than a neighbour’s property. There will be those who have a legitimate need for a larger household waste bin as a result of the move to fortnightly residual household waste collections.
This is not a facility we are offering for those who don’t recycle all that they could, or those who simply fancy a bigger bin.
However, we have recognised certain categories which we think have a legitimate claim.
These are residents with medical needs, households with five or more permanent residents and households with three or more children in nappies.
Throughout the changeover period our staff will be available to assist with questions and, in particular, to advise residents how they can increase their recycling.
More details are also available on our website where people will be available to find the answers to most questions – www.horsham.gov.uk/newbincollections
We have put in place all we can to ensure that the new arrangements go smoothly, but should there be any teething problems we are committed to doing our utmost to resolve them.