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Town first to empty bins once in three weeks

FALKIRK is to become the first council in the UK to have residents' main household bins collected once every three weeks in the hope of increasing recycling and reducing landfill.

Councillors yesterday voted to implement the regime for uplifting non-recyclable waste from next year, a move that could save the authority up to £1.4 million in landfill taxes.

The decision was welcomed by environmental campaigners, but others expressed concern it would be unhygienic and would leave taxpayers with a reduced service.

A spokesman from Falkirk Council said: "It is not a reduction in capacity, but it is all about telling people to try to use their existing recycling bins a bit more. We've got a big education campaign ahead of us but we are going for a generic bin collection once every three weeks.

"Falkirk has always been up at the highest levels of participation in recycling, so we're confident people are on board with this."

The fortnightly collection rates of recycling bins for paper and glass will still remain the same, with food waste being collected every week.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of The Earth Scotland, welcomed the new measures and said: "People get very excited about the number of bin collections they get but there is pretty good evidence from councils down south that if you reduce the number, people are more careful about recycling.

"They actually think about what they're buying more and produce less waste so it can be a positive thing for people to have fewer options. As long as it's coupled with good promotion of recycling then we would not be against it."

It is expected the scheme will be trialled in an area in Falkirk from April, before being rolled out.

Labour councillor Dr Craig Martin, the council's environmental spokesman, said he hoped other local authorities would follow suit. He said: "The next target is 60% recycling by 2020. In our current system we wouldn't make those targets, they're very tough, but we're confident people in Falkirk will take to this very well and they'll recycle more.

"We will knock on everyone's door and put a lot of money into education material because we do want it to work. We've made the big step and have gone first with this, but we won't be the last."

The pressure on councils to recycle stems from the Scottish Government's proposals to have 70% of waste recycled by 2025.

Targets for household waste recycling for 2012 were set at 50%, but only nine out of 32 local authorities managed to reach this level, including Falkirk and nearby Clackmannanshire,

The Shetland Islands, the only region in Scotland to still operate a weekly collection of non-recyclable waste, had the lowest rate in 2012 and missed the government target by 37.5%.

However, Falkirk's move has been slammed by some critics who said it could be unhygienic for residents if food is left uncollected for too long.

Eben Wilson, director of Taxpayer Scotland, has also criticised the changes and said: "Once again a local authority gives us no option to decide if we're getting value for money.

"Taxpayers are fed up of services being thinned down. We have no opportunity to say what we would like and most people prefer frequent collections, especially of perishables."

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Local government

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