Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 16th January 2007.

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Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Labour, Hartlepool

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will take steps to assess the relationship between increases in household recycling, reduced numbers of weekly refuse collection rounds by local authorities and increases in the rat population in urban areas; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare)

An independent, DEFRA-funded research study, carried out by Enviros Consulting and Cranfield University in 2006, concluded that there was no evidence of rises in rat populations resulting from alternate weekly collection of household refuse designed to increase levels of recycling.

The study found that the influence of domestic waste management arrangements on rats is likely to be insignificant in comparison to other factors, such as the age of the property, the area (urban or rural), and the adequate upkeep of drains.

The winter interim report for phase one of the study has been published and is available from DEFRA's Local Authority Support website at:

Proper design of an alternate weekly collection (AWC) service should avoid any increase in nuisance to householders. The Waste and Resources Action Programme has published guidance for local authorities on the design and implementation of alternate weekly collection services, in order to minimise nuisance and health risks. This includes, for example, hygiene measures for bins.

This is an important issue and DEFRA is supporting further research into this area. A report covering the summer period is currently under way and will be published soon.

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Eric Murray
Posted on 15 Apr 2007 3:44 pm (Report this annotation)

This report commissioned by Wycombe Council and DEFRA on the health impacts of alternate weekly waste collections suggests that there are no adverse effects of moving to this system. However, on closer inspection the report is based on assumptions that all waste is stored in wheelie bins and ignores the problems encountered with refuse sacks and side waste (uncollected rubbish). Given that approximately 4500 Oxford households are going to be issued with lilac bags this report has little relevance for Oxford.