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Waste collection can be a contentious issue, particularly when local authorities decide to move away from weekly bin collection to alternate weekly collection (AWC).

Over 59% of local authorities now use AWC of household waste—recycling is collected on one week and non-recyclable the next. AWC has been adopted as it can increase recycling while reducing waste management costs. AWC may also lead to a reduction in overall waste generation. If local authorities with AWC revert to full weekly bin collections it could cost £530 million over the spending review period.

While AWC can prove controversial, in many areas it has been introduced with little or no opposition, and even with public support. However, the suitability of AWC depends on the characteristics of the region. Successful introduction requires proper consultation and planning.

The principle concern raised about AWC is the potential health risk associated with food waste remaining in bins for up to two weeks. However, there is no evidence of increased health risk with AWC, provided common sense precautions are taken. Odour and flies can be managed through the adoption of weekly food waste collections alongside AWC, which is an approach that many councils have adopted.

The Government has said that while it is for councils to decide what waste collection system works best for their area, it wants to encourage them to collect waste more frequently. It introduced the £250 million Weekly Collections Support Scheme to help councils reintroduce weekly collections.

While little specific information is known about the bids that will be funded by the Scheme, it appears as though it will not lead to the widespread reinstating of weekly bin collections where they have been replaced by AWC. Instead it appears to support existing weekly collections alongside various enhancements to recycling services such as food waste collections and recycling reward schemes.

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