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The greens v the rats - who'll win?

This article was published in May 2007. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

A magnet for vermin or an intelligent way to get people recycling?

The great bins debate has been rumbling on again, and with bin collections back in the headlines, people up and down the country have been talking rubbish this week.

More than 140 councils have already scrapped weekly bin collections in favour of alternate weekly collections, and South Beds District Council is set to follow their lead later this year.

From September 3, householders in the district will have their black bins emptied one week and recyclables picked up the next.

It's been dubbed a way of reducing the amount of rubbish going into landfill, and the council claims recycling rates are set to rocket.

But when the decision was announced last September the Gazette was inundated with angry responses from taxpayers.

This week the district council confirmed that there are no plans to extend kerbside glass collections, so many recyclers will have to continue taking glass to bottle banks.

Since the council's executive committee decided to scrap weekly bin collections, a lot of the talk has been on whether leaving rubbish in bins for longer poses health risks.

An investigation by the News of the World has claimed that levels of "dangerous organisms" found in bins rise dramatically if rubbish isn't picked up for a fortnight.

But the paper also pointed out that research has also shown two-weekold waste is safe if it's wrapped up properly.

This week South Beds District Council said that so far feedback from the public has been "minimal and mixed".

And a spokesman said: "While some residents have expressed concern about the issue, once it is explained to them, most appreciate that it will lead to improved recycling rates and that it is necessary if the council is to avoid landfill taxes.

"The experience from other councils is that the introduction of an alternate week collection service does not result in any increase in rodents or insects, provided people wrap their food waste safely and securely, and store it in their black-wheeled bin with the lid closed."

People living in flats with communal bins will continue to have their rubbish picked up weekly, the Gazette has learned.

The district council is set to spend around £600,000 rolling out new orange recycling bins and mounting an education campaign.

This money comes from a local area agreement grant from Beds County Council.

Two national newspapers, including the News of the World, have mounted campaigns against alternate weekly collections.

It's been one of the big talking points ahead of local elections across the country tomorrow, but it's not one that divides easily along party lines. Councils controlled by all the major parties have switched to alternate collections.

Among these is neighbouring Mid Beds, where the district council claims that the project has been a success.

More than 15,000 tonnes of household waste were diverted from landfill to be recycled, and the recycling rate doubled between April 2005 and March 2006, according to Mid Beds District Council.

And research by the Local Government Association (LGA) suggests that areas where rubbish is picked up less often have higher recycling rates.

LGA chairman Sandy Bruce Lockhart said: "Britain is the dustbin of Europe with more rubbish being thrown into landfill than any other country in the continent.M

"For decades people have been used to being able to throw their rubbish away without worrying about environmental consequences or rising costs.

"Those days are now over."

Source: Dave Burke, Dunstable Gazette, 2 May 2007