Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sometimes it isn't easy being green...

More and more councils are having waste collection take place every other week. The Conservatives I am campaigning for are likely to introduce fortnightly collection. The change is a response to a major increase, by the government, in landfill charges. Councils can either take drastic action to increase recycling or face heavy new charges and be forced to cut other services or increase taxes.

Fortnightly collection is not popular, it comes up on the doorstep and people really resent it enough to change their vote. There is a great variety of reasons why people are already throwing out enough to fill their bins each week; keeping chickens was an example I heard today. For many cutting that amount down through recycling isn't as easy as the measure requires it to be, as those designing the policy assumed it to be. That such a basic service as waste disposal cannot be delivered by a council strikes people as incompetent.

This unpopular measure is forced by the Labour government's changes to the landfill tax. It is implemented by councils running fortnightly collection. The Conservatives have lots of incumbent councillors who are being blamed for a Labour government measure. Getting the message across that this isn't the Conservatives councillors' fault is an uncertain process. I'm not sure if this was a conscious choice when formulating the policy but putting the measure in place this way, forcing councils to do the dirty work, is quite an effective means for Labour to make Conservatives pay the electoral price for this unpopular measure. Crafty.

The Conservatives aren't exactly blameless though. The best response to this measure would have been that increasing the amount of waste we recycle might be a good thing but it is hardly the most pressing priority. The increased landfill charges should have been opposed as an overly drastic measure people needed time to adjust to by changing their consumption habits and that might, otherwise, increase fly-tipping and create serious problems for those who can't easily recycle more. However, when you're trying to set yourself up as the new Green messiah you can't really oppose any measure which sounds as green and ambitious as a big increase in landfill charges designed to force councils to work harder at encouraging recycling.

There are plenty of benefits in terms of the 'dog whistle' effect and preventing Green Party protest votes but there are political costs to playing the environmentalist. In these council elections we might start to see these political costs to environmental sanctimony.


Jeremy Jacobs said...

On a 21% average turn-out. Unlikely.

In the LB Barnet, there's been no mention of fortnightly collections. If they do, I'll insist on paying a lot less for more local "services"

James Higham said...

I really do believe we're getting close to that point where the pigeons come home to roost - we run out of land, out of fresh water and so on.

Colin Campbell said...

Here in urban South Australia most councils have bi weekly recycling and green waste pick ups and weekly rubbish pickups. This works and has dramatically reduced the volume of materials going to landfill. South Australia is the only part of Australia that has a deposit for bottled drinks and cans. This again reduces the general landfill requirement. Our rubbish bin is about 60 percent of our old rubbish bin, which always used to be full, but now is usually two thirds full.