By Christopher Hope, Daily Telegraph
Local authorities are under pressure to cut costs and increase productivity as a result of a fall in the amount of cash they receive from central Government.
Now official guidance from a Government waste recycling advisory group has recommended councils introduce a “no side-waste policy” for all households. Families which fall foul of the rules could be fined over £100.
‘Side waste’ is defined as “any surplus waste left outside the bin”, in official Government guidance. The change will mean that refuse collectors will be allowed to ignore any rubbish bags which are not in a wheelie bin.
The Waste Improvement Network said the plan would cut down on the number of collections bin men had to make.
In a report, the network said: “Allowing side waste means the operative probably has to make more trips to and from each house – so a no side-waste policy has an operational productivity impact, as well as supporting waste prevention and increasing recycling.”
The report, entitled “More for less: guidance for local authorities on saving money in waste & recycling services”, also recommended “communicating with customers” – or taxpayers – by urging them to separate their recycling properly, although it warns councils not to be too “heavy-handed”.
It says: “The average loading time can sometimes be significantly reduced by asking householders to, for example, set out fibres and containers in separate boxes.
“Even if this isn’t enforced in any kind of heavy-handed way, it can have a significant beneficial impact on the key driver of productivity during productive time.”
The report also suggested using “demographic data” to build up bin profiles on households, raising fears about the impact on people’s privacy.
It says: “You can look at trying to classify your households in different ways using e.g. housing types (detached, semi-detached, terraced, etc. available from ONS).”
Last month the Audit Commission told councils they were free to extend fortnightly bin collections across the country to save money.
The Tories said the “no side-waste policy” change would mean that the number of fixed penalties issued – currently running at around 1,000 a year – will almost certainly rise because eight out of 10 households now use wheelie bins.
Caroline Spelman, shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “Having changed the law to remove councils’ legal duties to collect rubbish, Whitehall bin bureaucrats are now instructing councils not to collect bin bags.
“It is totally wrong that a draconian and arbitrary cut to local services is being dressed up by Labour as a so-called efficiency saving.
“It is clear that more bin cuts and bin charges are on the way if Gordon Brown can cling on to power after the general election.
“These moves will just harm the local environment by fuelling fly-tipping and backyard burning, penalising responsible families who put their rubbish out for collection in orderly manner.
“Rather than using incentives to encourage people to go green, Labour’s heavy-handed statist approach is all about levying fines, taxes and cuts on frontline services.”
Doretta Cocks, spokesman for the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, said: “It is obvious that councils do not want our ordinary waste and are trying every angle to avoid collecting it.
“In areas where waste is collected only once a fortnight, ‘side waste’ bans prove very difficult – more individual trips to the tip or rubbish building up in back gardens, harming our local environments.”
Alice Roberts, a spokesman for the Waste Improvement Network, said stopping collecting side waste was one way that refuse collectors could save time on their bin rounds.
But she said that they should only be introduced alongside local authorities allowing for “increase in capacity for recycling” at the households concerned.
A Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman saod: “There are no secret Government plans to tell councils how to collect waste.
“The Waste Improvement Network shares experiences of waste management services between local authorities. Councils should work with their local communities to decide the best waste collection arrangements for their area.”
The news comes after a big rise in the numbers of councils which have been planting microchips in bins, which critics say will them introduced pay as you throw taxes.