HOUSEHOLDERS in Huntingdonshire are real stars – according to their district council. Residents are now recycling nearly two-thirds of everything they throw away – compared with barely 10 per cent half a dozen years ago. Council managers believe the distr
HOUSEHOLDERS in Huntingdonshire are real stars - according to their district council.
Residents are now recycling nearly two-thirds of everything they throw away - compared with barely 10 per cent half a dozen years ago.
Council managers believe the district is sure to be in the top 10 per cent of England's 238 districts when the figures for last year are published later in 2008 and possibly even higher in 2008/09.
Last year, Huntingdonshire pushed South Cambridgeshire off the podium for the best recycling record in the county, recording 51.7 per cent against South Cambs's 51.0 per cent - a title the Cambourne-based authority was determined to win back with the introduction of plastic bottle recycling from today (Wednesday).
But in the meantime Huntingdonshire has surged ahead, recording an audited 56 per cent in 2007/08 and 62 per cent in the first quarter of the current municipal year. South Cambs is also improving rapidly, but now lags even further behind Hunts with 56.5 per cent in the first quarter of this year.
East Cambridgeshire's recycling rate is 36 per cent - but even that is way ahead of a lot of urban authorities and London boroughs.
"We are the envy of other authorities," HDC operations manager Robert Ward told The Hunts Post. "A lot of residents are really committed to recycling. We could not sustain these levels without them. We thought we would struggle to get beyond 50 per cent."
Residents have been helped by the council's choice of reprocessing contractor in Milton Keynes, which is recovering more types of material through a combination of mechanical and skilled manual handling of waste.
As a result, the proportion of material put out for recycling but rejected as unsuitable has fallen from around nine per cent three years ago to six per cent - and much of that is sent for burning to generate power, Councillor Colin Hyams, cabinet member responsible for rubbish, said.
Some of the material is reprocessed in the UK and some overseas, but the contractor is required to produce a full audit trail to demonstrate that material sent for recycling has been processed for re-use and not landfilled.
The news of Huntingdonshire's success emerged as the Audit Commission warned councils that they risked fines for landfilling too much household rubbish in contravention of EU directives. Hunts residents' commitment to reusing so much of their discarded material means HDC has already beaten the 2010 and 2013 targets of reducing domestic landfill by 35 and 50 per cent respectively and is well on the way towards the 2020 target of reducing landfill to 25 per cent of the 1999 level.
The success has posed a bit of a headache for HDC in the use of its fleet of refuse freighters.
"There's a bit of guesswork now in how many vehicles to send out to pick up this amount of material," Cllr Hyams said.
HDC has looked at the possibility of a separate kerbside glass collection. It is not yet economically viable, but may be in a couple of years' time. Although it would probably capture only four or five per cent more glass than residents currently leave at bottle banks, it would free up space for other commodities - such as clothes and books.
The recycling effort will be boosted further in 2010 when a new plant comes on stream at Donarbon's Waterbeach site, where recyclable material will be recovered from waste wrongly sent by householders for landfill.
HDC's next task is to persuade businesses to match residents' enthusiasm for re-using discarded materials.