As a result the council has risen from being ranked nearly 300th in the local authorities’ recycling table to being in the top three.
“When we moved from a weekly to a fortnightly bin collection service we were conscious of the need to prevent the kind of backlash that had occurred in other areas,” says Victoria Burgess, the council’s improvement and development manager.
“We got the media in and told them what we were doing, and why,” she says. “And we used councillors for identifying and solving any problems that emerged on the ground.”
The council also used its engagement and monitoring officers to provide households with clarification, education and encouragement but not enforcement.
“They visited tens of thousands of households,” says Ms Burgess. “They were there to help, and to solve people’s problems face to face.”
To explain the new waste collection service, council staff gave 65 talks to parish and town councils. With significant funding from the government-backed Waste & Resources Action Programme, they also made door-to-door visits in some areas.
“We have tried to make the new service as flexible as possible, and to cater for different people’s circumstances, irrespective of their location, size of household and any disability,” says Ms Burgess.
As a result, some areas still have sack collections, although the council has also looked at ways to improve the efficiency of collections, for example by making sure lorries do not try to make them on bank holidays in areas that are flooded with tourists.
The dramatic improvement in the council’s performance has been achieved through good organisation and planning and clear communication, comments Ms Burgess.
“Because we have helped and communicated every step of the way, we have got the residents on board.”
She adds: “The results speak for themselves. We never expected to reach such a high recycling rate. We have exceeded our targets and there is not much more that we can recycle.
“We used to be a refuse service that also did recycling; now we are a recycling service that also collects people’s waste.”