Weekly bin collections 'still due for return'

Rubbish collection
Image caption Residents can currently receive a fixed-penalty notice if they repeatedly break rules on rubbish collections

The government remains committed to bringing back weekly bin collections, the BBC understands.

The BBC's Mike Sergeant says those close to the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles deny reports of a U-turn and say the policy is unchanged.

It comes as ministers are expected to announce that councils will be stripped of the ability to fine householders who break minor bin collection rules.

Changes will be outlined in the waste review to be published next week.

The review was launched last year by the coalition government to examine how best to encourage householders, companies and communities to produce less waste and boost recycling.

The move followed controversy over waste and recycling policies which now sees more than half of councils using collections which only pick up domestic rubbish once a fortnight.

Our correspondent understands there has been resistance to the policy of restoring weekly collections from officials in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) "from day one".

Councils have said there is no one-size-fits-all policy.

Weekly collections work best for some local authorities, whereas others say alternate weekly collection of different types of waste is the best way to increase recycling.

It is not clear how central government might persuade or incentivise councils to collect refuse every week, particularly as so many have invested heavily in fortnightly schemes.

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth said councils "shouldn't be bullied into running weekly bin rounds".

"Weekly bin collections are more expensive to run and lead to less waste being recycled, which is bad news for cash-strapped councils and families and bad news for the environment," said its waste campaigner, Julian Kirby.

He said fortnightly collections are "hygienic and popular", provided they are "accompanied by decent recycling and weekly food waste pick-ups too".

Under existing rules, councils have the right to fine householders up to £110 for breaching regulations on putting out rubbish.

And a failure to pay the fines can leave households facing court fines of £1,000.

Misdemeanours can include recycling incorrectly or leaving waste out on the wrong day.

Wrong bin fines

But following the review, it is expected that town halls will only be able to issue fixed penalty notices to people who allow rubbish to pile up, or those who fly-tip.

The aim of the changes is understood to be a bid to stop fines being issued for breaking rules that some feel are confusing, arbitrary and unfair following reports of people being fined for putting rubbish into the wrong bin, failing to close their bin lid or putting a bag of waste out alongside their wheelie bin.

The waste review has looked at future infrastructure needs, including producing energy from waste and from a biological process known as anaerobic digestion.

Announcing the review last year, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said it was an opportunity to look at how to increase recycling, reduce landfill and unlock the economic value of items which people no longer want.

The previous government failed in an attempt to introduce a "pay as you throw" pilot to penalise people for creating too much rubbish.

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