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Pickles stops straw poll on weekly bin rounds

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Communities secretary Eric Pickles has prevented a recycling industry leader from assessing support for weekly bin collections at a conference.

Speaking at the industry conference and exhibition RWM, Mr Pickles defended his favoured solution of councils sticking to weekly waste collections, rather than alternating collection of recyclable and other materials.

LGC’s sister title Materials Recycling World has reported that when session chair Steve Lee, chief executive at the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, tried to survey how many in the audience supported Mr Pickles’ view, the communities secretary intervened to stop the straw poll and told Mr Lee: “You are abusing your position.”  

Mr Pickles also objected to comments that householders could be educated into accepting less frequent collections.

“We are not in the business of training the electorate,” he said. “We are in the business of giving them what they want.”

He told the conference that complex recycling systems were one reason why recycling rates in England had stalled, saying a “proliferation” of schemes and bin numbers had affected public participation.

“We need a greater degree of rationalisation and to get the public on board,” he said. “We need to learn from behavioural insight. If we make it easier for families, they will recycle more.”

He described weekly collections as “the most visible sign of public service” and said evidence indicated they contributed to increasing recycling.

Mr Pickles also questioned the influence of European laws on recycling policies in the UK.

“In debate there has been an elephant in the room, and not a passive elephant,” he said. “An elephant pulling the strings and calling the shots, which is Brussels.”

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