Headlines: September 19th, 2005

Staff at a local authority that already recycles dust and debris recovered from roadside gutters are now using new technology to measure just how much household rubbish is being recycled. Alnwick District Council in Northumberland has begun a five-month trial using electronic chips in council bins.The microchips are being inserted into 4,000 wheelie bins set aside for recycling household waste. Special readers are also being fitted to the council’s fleet of refuse lorries to record immediately the amount of recyclable rubbish in the bins. Data gathered from the lorries will be used to map recycling ‘hotspots’ and identify areas where people are not separating recyclable material.

The council’s head of environmental services, Richard Thompson, said the aim was to build up a picture of recycling rates at ward level and there was no question of punishing those households who were failing to recycle. Instead the council will offer help to those it feels could be doing more.

The scheme will be part funded by DEFRA. In Alnwick, as in the rest of the north-east rates for recycling household waste are below the national average but this is the second example of the council breaking new ground in recycling. It already has a scheme under which dust and debris from street gutters are being reused. During the first three months of the scheme 254 tonnes of chippings, dust and other waste were collected ready for processing to produce a filler to be used in regeneration projects.

Material collected by Alnwick’s street cleaning vehicles is put into a skip at the council depot before being collected by a local company JBT Waste Services, from Bedlington. It cleans and sieves the waste to produce a fine material that JBT uses or sells on for use in building up land on renovation sites. More than 95 per cent of the collected material from gutters is re-used.