Page last updated at 13:56 GMT, Friday, 13 July 2007 14:56 UK

The league champions of recycling

By Nigel Pankhurst
BBC News, Sleaford

The people of Sleaford are top of the table when it comes to recycling, with more than half of their household waste being reused.

How do they do it - and could other areas follow their lead?

Sleaford town centre
Sleaford is at the centre of a largely agricultural community

Sleaford is a quiet market town in the heart of rural Lincolnshire which, even by local admission, many people probably know little about.

However, it does have at least one reason for national acclaim.

Sleaford is the focal point of the district of North Kesteven, whose residents can boast the highest recycling rate in England.

The most recent government "league table" for the country shows that North Kesteven recycles 51.5% of its household waste - the only place to break the 50% barrier.

And it has managed to breach that mark just four years after its recycling rate stood at 3.4%.

The figures for the rest of the country reveal some of the 393 councils still record recycling rates under 10%.

Keeping it simple

Mark Taylor, head of environmental services at North Kesteven District Council, says there is no big secret to its success.

If you want to get people involved in recycling schemes, he says, the advice is "keep it simple".

1. North Kesteven 51.5%
2. Rushcliffe 49.9%
3. S Cambridgeshire 49.4%
4. St Edmundsbury 48.6%
5. Huntingdonshire 48.0%
Source: Defra figures for England for 2005/6

North Kesteven residents have bins for three types of rubbish - a brown bin for garden waste, a green bin for "dry recyclables" such as paper, plastic and glass, and a black bin for everything else - the "residual".

Each bin is emptied fortnightly - or "alternate weekly" as council officials up and down the country are fond of saying.

All the garden waste and half the district's regular rubbish is picked up one week, the remaining recyclable material and the other half of the rubbish is collected the next.

'Too much'

Mr Taylor said: "I think it's all down to being fairly simple. Most councils will offer residual and recycling schemes of some sort. Some are more complicated - my view is that is asking too much of people.

Mark Taylor
If they can look at our model and say 'can we copy that', I'd be very pleased
Mark Taylor
North Kesteven District Council

"If you can make it simple then people are more likely to do it. I know I certainly wouldn't want five or six containers of waste."

He added: "There may be people in the district that grumble about doing it but the results speak for themselves.

"The residents of the district have obviously taken the message to their hearts. I think we have offered them a system that works, and works well, and they have gone on and used it."

'Easiest place'

The council collects rubbish from a population of fewer than 100,000 people across 356 square miles, 90% of which is agricultural land.

The people of Sleaford spoken to by the BBC News website had mixed views on the recycling scheme but were generally supportive of the council's efforts.

2001/2 3.4%
2002/3 16.1%
2003/4 20.1%
2004/5 39.2%
2005/6 51.5%
2006/7 56.4%*
Source: North Kesteven District Council (*unconfirmed)

Phil Hudson, 24, said: "Recycling is really easy, it's no hassle. It makes sense. I've lived in three places in the last year and this is the easiest to recycle in."

However, 18-year-old Stevie McAvoy was not happy about having to sort out her household waste.

She said: "It's annoying big time putting rubbish in different bins. Quite a few of my mates can't be bothered.

"They would rather bung it in one bin. I know it helps the environment but it's time consuming."

'Raised profile'

Monica Bacon and Susan Salah were actively doing their bit for the scheme, filling a garden waste bin with hedge clippings.

Monica Bacon and Susan Salah
Recycling in action: Monica Bacon and Susan Salah bin clippings

Mrs Salah said: "Recycling is not that much bother, it's a good idea. It's a reliable service. We've got to start thinking about saving the Earth."

North Kesteven's success story looks set to continue, with the next set of figures for the year 2006/7 unconfirmed at 56.4%.

"It's raised the profile of North Kesteven hugely," said Mr Taylor. "Very few people knew where it was. Perhaps that has changed a little bit now, people have heard of us because of this success."

Mr Taylor hopes the example set in North Kesteven can be replicated in other parts of the country.

He said: "If they can look at our model and say 'can we copy that', I'd be very pleased."

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