Even though many of the municipalities in Wales and England currently operate AWCs, their impact on recycling rates and cost effectiveness has never been studied before.
However, despite its success, the AWC system does have its opponents. The communities department DCLG provided a £250m 3-year fund to petition councils to revert to weekly collections.
The study was conducted between March and June of 2009 in Lichfield, Staffordshire. It compared the single stream collection method, which required residents to put recyclables into a single 240-liter wheeled bin versus the dual stream collection method in which residents were allowed to place steel and aluminum cans, glass, and mixed plastics in a 240-liter bin.
The study tracked changes in frequency of collection, the type of container used, the effort involved in sorting items, household participation, and productivity levels.
The results were reviewed methodically before any changes to the collection system were made.
Ultimately, experts agreed that recycling rates were much improved by implementing an AWC system and there were no adverse impacts. Rates of public participation were up, there were no issues with household waste, and no related public health or government crises.
Admittedly, the dual stream collection method is more expensive than single stream since it requires more staff time, vehicles, and time to explain the system to householders. However, over the course of three months, the dual stream consistently performed better than single stream, averaging a collection of 5.94 kg/hh/week compared to the single stream’s 5.63 kg/hh/week. The single stream did have a greater increase in the overall weight of the material collected.
At the end of the trials, a biweekly recyclate collections process was undertaken using wheeled bins in all areas – achieving reduced collection costs and greater recyclate collection.