BOLTON is the third-best authority in the North-west for recycling household waste, new figures reveal.

Audit Commission statistics show 18,468 tonnes were recycled in Bolton between April, 2005, and March, 2006.

That is behind only Manchester, which recycles 33,109 tonnes and Wigan, which recycles 20,081 tonnes.

It places Bolton third out of 43 local authorities in the North-west. Nationally, Bolton ranks 31st out of 353 authorities.

Bolton Council's executive member for recycling and waste, Cllr Elaine Sherrington, said: "I would like to congratulate the public for their help in making this happen.

"Without them we would not be looking at these figures. This is good for the environment and it's important because across the country there's only capacity for another six years of landfill."

The figures are a massive improvement on the previous 12 months, when the town came 31st in the North-west and 304th in the country.

The statistics are based on how much in weight is recycled.

Separate tables which cover the percentage of overall waste recycled, not just household, place Bolton in 11th position in the North-west.

Bolton Council had been threatened with a £1.5 million fine by the Government if it did not improve its recycling rate.

Faced with that threat, in 2005 the Lib Dem-controlled council introduced fortnightly grey wheeelie bin collections, with recycling containers emptied in alternate weeks.

This was designed to encourage recycling - but there were huge protests from householders faced with waiting two weeks for their grey bin to be emptied.

As a result, when Labour won back control of the council last year, they reintroduced weekly collections.

Bolton Council's monthly figures for the percentage of household waste recycled peaked at 35.5 per cent last June before the reintroduction of weekly collections. The figure has since hovered around the 30 per cent mark and in November was 28.2 per cent.

The Liberal Democrat Party has claimed the success is down to its introducing two weekly collections of grey bins while in power.

But Cllr Sherrington said: "The high recycling levels have been maintained since we returned to weekly collections so I do not accept there is a link."

She added that a pilot scheme to replace green recycling boxes at 12,500 homes in Over Hulton, Westhoughton and Blackrod with larger burgundy wheelie bins, was going well.

Another pilot scheme has given the same homes the chance to recycle card alongside paper for the first time, with the weekly paper collection becoming fortnightly.