South Holland was branded rubbish at recycling after the district came almost bottom of a 40-strong league table in the East Midlands.
This local authority area is also the worst of seven district councils in Lincolnshire for the percentage of waste recycled, reused or composted – with just 30.8 per cent (9,301 tonnes) of the overall 30,169 tonnes collected saved from the tip. By 2020, England must meet the EU target of recycling at least half of all household waste.
West Lindsey is the only Lincolnshire district exceeding that target on 54.2 per cent while South Kesteven, which covers Bourne and The Deepings, is nudging towards the benchmark on 47.6 per cent.
All other Lincolnshire districts recycle 40 per cent or better, leaving South Holland out in the cold in 38th place out of 40 local authorities in the region.
The league table was compiled by the GMB union, who say: “We need a sharing of expertise and knowledge which is vital to bring the recycling underachievers up to the level of their peers.”
But council cabinet member Coun Roger Gambba-Jones, whose portfolio responsibilities include management of waste collection, says there’s “a hidden story” in the table as the vast majority of councils that have the higher figures achieve those by recycling garden waste – something South Holland is due to begin this year with a pilot project.
He said: “Garden waste is by its very nature heavy and that’s one of the reasons in the early days why many councils chose to recycle garden waste.
“If you take out garden waste, you will actually see that our 30 per cent is actually quite good.”
Coun Gambba-Jones said some councils who initially collected garden waste free of charge are having to revisit that decision, as budgets come under “significant pressure”, and start charging.
He said: “Some taxpayers are saying ‘I am not going to pay for it’ and their (the local authorities’) recycling figures will reduce accordingly.”
Although district councils collect the bags and wheelie bin contents in Lincolnshire, Coun Gambba-Jones says it is now up to the county council to manage what happens next as it has taken over recycling in addition to its waste disposal role.
Coun Gambba-Jones says public attitudes to recycling vary across the country and this district.
“It’s a patchwork because of the social make-up of certain areas,” he said. “Certain areas are absolutely committed to recycling and other people just could not give a stuff and you have to even it out like that.”
Coun Gambba-Jones said South Holland’s crews go down certain roads where they stop at three or four houses out of 20 or 30 and there are other roads where they have to stop at every single house.
He said for nearly three years, the district council had a big team working hard to boost recycling levels here – and that included the green bag lottery with cash prizes up to £1,000.
The net result, he said, was a rise of about three per cent.
He said the district could continue trying to spread the recycling message, but asked: “Are you willing for me to put an extra £30,000, £60,000 or £90,000 on the council tax just to send you a piece of paper so I can keep reminding you to recycle?”