Eric Pickles is waging a one-man war against the fortnightly rubbish collection. Since 2005, local authorities around the UK have been steadily moving to less frequent collections - so that now half of all councils only collect rubbish every other week. Pickles has been piling on the pressure to move back to weekly collections, scrapping fines for people who break wheelie bin rules, and issuing a guide for councils pushing them to reinstate weekly collections on the grounds that they did nothing to promote recycling.
But now it seems that European bureaucrats could be about to undo all his good work.
Why?They're not trying to make life smellier and more rodent-ridden, they are trying to increase recycling over the next 15 years - so that 70% of all waste is recycled, and they are proposing a tough new directive to make it happen.
If this directive is passed, it would have to be brought into force in the UK - which is going to end up penalising councils who take too much rubbish to landfill. In order to cut down the rubbish levels, they in turn are likely to bring in new rules to encourage people to recycle more - including moving to less frequent bin collections.
FinesWorryingly, it is also likely to increase the trend towards sanctions for people who do not throw themselves wholeheartedly enough into recycling. Despite the government scrapping fines for poor recycling and breaking bin rules, councils have been taking matters into their own hands in recent months and bringing back some of the charges. In March, for example, North Somerset Council said it had been checking rubbish bags, and it would implement £75 fines for people who repeatedly refused to recycle.
We're still a long way from the situation in the year from 2011 to 2012, when 3,200 fines were issued by local authorities for a number of offences, including the horrors of overfilling bins, or trying to put out an extra bag. At that time, those who repeatedly left their bins out for too long were threatened with fines of up to £1,000. However, the concern is that extra financial pressure on councils could see a return to the bad old days.
Pickles is naturally opposing the changes. He responded to the news saying: "Hard-working families pay a lot of money in council tax and they deserve a proper rubbish and recycling collection in return." he added: "This Government has scrapped Labour's bin bully approach – and we will fight attempts to re-impose bureaucracy via the back door of Europe."
We will have to wait to see whether the proposals are accepted, and if so, how they are enforced in the UK. But as the summer heats up, there can't be many people hoping that their over-warm over-full wheelie bin can spend a bit longer hanging around outside their house.