Take rubbish to the bank or bring bins to the people?: Opinion is divided on the best local methods to persuade us to sort and save reusable garbage

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The Independent Online
IF BRITAIN is to hit the 25 per cent recycling target then door-to-door collections may have to be introduced across much of the nation.

Householders would be required to keep irredeemable waste separate from recyclables, which would be placed outside in a container for weekly collection, or in a 'wheelie bin' with compartments.

Some experts consider this 'kerbside' method to be deeply flawed. They favour the 'bring' method, with more and more collection points to which the public can take their recyclables. If there is a glass, paper, plastic and can bank every few streets, then sufficient numbers of people will use them to hit the target. Advocates of this second approach say it involves less fuss and is more economical than its kerbside rival, mainly because the banks are much easier to service than individual homes.

Richmond Borough Council hopes to hit the 25 per cent target by 1995 with the bring method. It aims to provide at least one type of collection point for every 500 homes. Pilot kerbside schemes are already serving more than 100,000 homes nationwide. Leeds, Milton Keynes and the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are among the larger communities served.

Adur District Council, covering Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex, claims to be the first in the country to have achieved the 25 per cent target, based on a pilot kerbside collection scheme which is being extended to all 26,000 homes in its area. Householders are asked to collect their recyclables in large blue plastic crates.

The extra cost of recycling under this scheme works out at pounds 17 per household per year more than the cost of conventional waste collection - which has to continue in parallel to pick up the unrecyclables. The council's backers, which include big retailers and household goods manufacturers, are working on ways to drive down these costs.

They are pinning their hopes on a new collection vehicle that can collect both ordinary waste and recyclables at the same time. If this works, it will overcome the need to have two vehicles and two weekly collection runs - the main reason why kerbsides schemes are so expensive.

Even so, the council and its collaborators are introducing an element of the bring system into their kerbside scheme. Households will be asked to keep their jars and bottles separate and take them to glass banks throughout the district.

Diversity may be the answer. In five years' time the bring system may predominate in some areas, with the kerbside method or a combination of the two operating in others.

Both schemes rely heavily on the goodwill of the public, both in separating out the recyclables properly in the first place and accumulating it at home. If you live in a small house with a large family, lots of rubbish and little storage space, that goodwill may be lacking.

Several surveys have indicated that willingness to recycle is linked to socio-economic status. Kerbside schemes may flourish in leafy suburbs but wither in inner cities. Poverty, and the lack of motivation that accompanies it, may prove a big obstacle to hitting the 25 per cent target.