Friday, 10 August 2007

Meeting Rushmoor's Waste Tsar

Yesterday I arranged a meeting with David Quirk (Head of Environmental Health) the officer at Rushmoor advising members on Waste Collection and recycling. David is what I consider a very down to earth, practical and professional officer.
The reason for the meeting was for me to better understand some of the issues around our current efforts to increase recycling in the Borough.
One thing that came as a complete surprise to me was that recycling glass is more efficient than making glass from virgin material. This is not true of many recyclable products like many plastics where the recycling process is less efficient and more costly than working with virgin material. It struck me that this being the case, glass should have been one of the first household collections, not one of the last.
I also discussed my concern about the survey of the trial area, and the questions which I thought could have been put more clearly. To my surprise this had been shown to the all party group of councillors that recommended the trial - and no one said a thing!! On reflection I do think the trial should also have included the reduced bin size option (two options were recommended alternate weekly collection or weekly reduced bin size). It would be odd, if we decided this was the best option, that we have not trialed it.
We also talked about the latest advice from WRAP an organisation that gives advice on waste collection and recycling, and has recently recommended to local authorities to collect putrifiable waste weekly. Again this pushes Councils that take this advise seriously towards the reduced bin size option.
Finally we talked about keeping and building on the good relationship the Council generally has with residents. Rushmoor sees itself very much as working with - not against residents. I have been very concerned that this whole issue is in danger of spoiling that special relationship that has taken years to build, but could be lost so easily within months. Government targets, lobby groups and newspaper campaigns have sometimes clouded rather than illuminated solutions to the growing need and awareness to care for our environment. Up until this point we have been slowly increasing our recycling, however, although slow, it has been very much a happy partnership between council and residents. I do not want that lost..
I was reassured by David Quirk that he felt as strongly about that as I do, and reminded me that his department was committed to a pledge - if residents do all they can do, the waste management team will ensure residents are assisted. If you have a big family and the bin is not big enough and you are doing all you can do - you will get help with a bigger bin. If you have other special circumstances and are doing all you can do, but are experiencing problems - David's team will not let you down, or leave you with the problem they will help solve it.
So the meeting concluded on a very positive note. I still have grave concerns about alternate weekly collections. I do understand the need to do something, and not simply stand still. It will be interesting to see what the report of the trial tells us, and what recommendations will be presented. I along with residents await with interest.

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