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General waste falls as nine out of ten households prefer to recycle

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Tuesday 10 September 2019

The amount of general rubbish generated by households has more than halved since the introduction of new waste collections a year ago, putting the island on course for one of the highest recycling rates in Europe.

In the first six months of the year, around 2,125 tonnes of 'black bag' waste was collected, compared to 5,100 tonnes for the same period in 2018.

The introduction of a weekly food waste pick-up accounted most of the decrease, with more than 1,700 tonnes collected from households in the first half of 2019. This material now undergoes separate processing, to generate electricity and produce a compost material.

Kerbside recycling has also seen a big increase - up by around 500 tonnes compared to the first six months of 2018 - and the amount of glass recycled has gone up around 15% since the introduction of kerbside collections.

One of the major drivers for the increased recycling has been the switch to fortnightly collection for general rubbish - which coincided with the introduction of food waste and glass pick-ups in September 2018. The new pay as you throw charge for non-recycled waste, which came in in February 2019, has also prompted a shift in behaviour.

Guernsey Waste operations manager, Sarah Robinson, said the greater increase came from the changes to collections.

"We have monitored the recycling and waste that households set out before and after the new collections came in. What we saw was a very large shift in behaviour, with lots more using the recycling collections.

"We saw another increase after the new pay as you throw charge came in, albeit not as marked. However by then we were already seeing very high participation across the board.

"What it demonstrates is islanders are keen to recycle, and if we provide the right services, and the right incentives, they will use them."

A survey of more than 1,000 homes in Castel and St Peter Port, in June this year, found that more than 90% of households now use the doorstep recycling services.

In an identical study before the changes to collections and charges, 74% of households used the blue and clear bag kerbside recycling service. In the most recent survey, that figure had risen to 92%. 

In addition, 93% of households were separating their food waste collections, and 77% of households put out all three items during the four weeks of the survey.

Take up of glass collection was lower than for the other materials, with 59% setting out their bag at least once during the four weeks. However this is expected to underestimate participation, since most households have relatively little glass, so may use the service but set out less frequently than for other recycling.

A separate study in May looked at the composition of waste and recycling set out by more than 200 households in various locations. That data can now be compared to previous surveys, to identify changes since the new collections and charges were introduced.

The latest results show the amount of recyclable materials being thrown away by households has fallen significantly since the changes. Only around 8% of general rubbish was potentially recyclable, compared to around 15% in 2015 and 2018. 

In 2012, before the first kerbside recycling collections were introduced, around 25% of material thrown away was recyclable.

The headline participation data excludes households who have communal collection points, where it is not possible to say which house has set out each container. However these were included in the survey, and a standard method was used to estimate their take up of the services.  When these were included with the other data, overall participation for all households was still estimated to be above 90%. 

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