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Domestic Wastes: Waste Disposal

Volume 479: debated on Monday 1 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to the answer of 19 June 2007, Official Report, column 1658W, on domestic waste: waste management, and 9 May 2008, Official Report, column 1239W, on domestic wastes: contract, on what date his Department received the report Potential health risks to humans from birds, mammals and insects associated with UK waste management operations: Final Report; and what steps he has taken in response to the evidence in the report on the links between fortnightly and weekly rubbish collections and public health risks. (217819)

An early draft of research report WR0601 was submitted in December 2005. The report was completed in January 2006 and was published as part of the new science information system which went live on the DEFRA website in February 2007. This scoping report provided suggestions for further research, one area being further investigation of any health-related implications of changes to waste collection routines.

Further work was commissioned in 2006 by Wycombe district council with funding being provided by the DEFRA Waste Implementation Programme (WIP)1. This work reported in February 2007 and is available electronically on the contractor's website. It provides a review of the potential for health impacts to occur from alternate week waste collection schemes, principally in comparison with weekly collection schemes, using the scheme operated by Wycombe district council as a case study. The study was carried out to investigate any issues relating to odours, insects, rodents and the risks of disease. The research literature consulted provided no evidence that alternate week residual and biodegradable waste collection will cause any significant health impacts for residents, or that any health impacts are likely to be significantly greater than those associated with weekly collections. This is consistent with wider studies of the health effects of waste management, which indicate that all methods of waste management can have at most a minor effect on health2. The Wycombe study goes on to recommend some common-sense steps that can be taken to alleviate amenity issues (e.g. keeping containers clean, not shredding or chopping kitchen waste before disposal, keeping containers outdoors, avoiding shelter opportunities for rodents, waste wrapped or in containers etc.).

Subsequently, in July 2007, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) published guidance for local authorities on the design and implementation of alternate weekly collection services, in order to provide practical advice for waste managers and elected members within local authorities3. This report references the Enviros 2007 report in commenting on health and amenity issues.

All further relevant research undertaken will be published on the DEFRA website.

1 Enviros (2007) Health Impact Assessment of Alternative Week Waste Collections of Biodegradable Waste. A report by Cranfield university and Enviros Consulting. DEFRA Waste Implementation Programme—Wycombe district council. Report DE0110102 A, Enviros Consulting Ltd. (February 2007)

2 DEFRA (2004) Review of Environmental and Health Effects of Waste Management: Municipal Solid Waste and Similar Waste. A report by Enviros in association with the university of Birmingham. Product code PB9052A.

3 WRAP (2007) Alternate weekly collections guidance (Project code: ROT 028) ISBN: 1-84405-337-7.