Cost of disposing of our rubbish on the rise

The cost of disposing of Norfolk's rubbish is increasing every year, despite improved recycling rates, delegates at a waste management conference in the county have been told.

Some 1.8m tonnes of commercial, industrial and municipal waste is collected and dealt with each year in the county at a cost of �47m, Barry Coleman, chairman of Norfolk Waste Partnership, told the organisation's conference at the John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park.

The total includes 400m tonnes a year of household waste, enough to fill one-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools every day.

The cost to Norfolk councils of sending waste to landfill is �11m a year, Mr Coleman said, including representatives of local authorities and the waste management industry. 'That figure is increasing by �1.8m a year in landfill tax alone, so it's an important issue for all of us.'

Delegates heard that Norfolk had the third best dry recycling rate of any county authority in England, and that the 'Love Food, Hate Waste' scheme in the county had helped reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill by 8,000 tonnes.

They were also given an update on Norwich City Council's food waste collection service, launched this week.

Some 53,000 homes across the city have been given black and grey caddies for all food waste, which is being collected every week.

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The caddies are intended for leftovers from meals and food that has passed its use-by date, as well as items such as potato peelings and eggshells. The waste is taken to a processing plant in Suffolk and used to make soil enhancer.

Adrian Akester, head of citywide services at the council, estimated the take-up rate among households with the new caddies was between 50 and 60 per cent.

On Monday, its first day, 18 tonnes of food waste was collected. On Tuesday the figure was 16 tonnes, on Wednesday 14 tonnes and yesterday's total was expected to reach 18 tonnes again.

'It's gone fantastically well. There have been a few teething problems out on the ground - people putting the wrong bins out, querying things or getting a little bit confused - but there's been nothing there that's a cause for concern,' said Mr Akester.

'The vast majority of people have accepted it and I would give credit to our contractors Verdant for their flexibility in resolving any problems we get. In a local authority it's not often you get praise from the public, but we have had so many thank-yous for doing it. I've been working in local authorities for 20 years and it's taken me by surprise.'

Mr Akester said the scheme would ultimately save the council money by reducing the amount paid in landfill tax.

Victoria Macdonald, cabinet member for environment, said: 'I'm very pleased. I've visited the plant where the waste is processed and seen truck after truck coming in. It really puts into perspective how much waste we are creating.

'I appreciate there have been some teething problems because some places have missed a week's collection but I hope people bear with us and next week will have the right bins out.'