Blaenau Gwent seeks to resolve collection concerns
Blaenau Gwent council has pledged to continue to work with residents to resolve concerns about its new kerbside-sort recycling system, after around 200 people attended a protest last Friday (20 November).
The protestors have previously cited concerns that the council has paid ‘no consideration to the residents… and the local area’, though the council has pledged to alter the service to resolve resident concerns.
The system, rolled out across the area in October, provides residents with stackable boxes for recycling, known as Trolibocs, and the change in Blaenau Gwent is also seeing collection of residual waste changed from fortnightly to three-weekly, with weekly collections of food waste and recycling.
But some residents have complained about the new system, culminating in Friday’s protest outside the Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council (BGC) headquarters in Ebbw Vale.
Among the worries of protesters were that elderly and disabled residents would not be able to move their stacked recycling bins out for collection and that many terraced houses in Blaenau Gwent will struggle to accommodate the service.
The bottom two boxes, which both have capacities of 44 litres, take plastic and metal packaging and a mixture of glass and cardboard, while the 40-litre top box is for mixed paper.
The system has proved popular in other areas, and is one of the Welsh Government’s preferred recycling collection options. The system is already used across Conwy, as well as in parts of Northern Ireland, where the system is preferred to the previous collection scheme by 91 per cent of residents.
BGC agreed the switch last October, primarily because the county’s previous collection system did not comply with the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 that required separate collection of waste paper, metal, plastic and glass except when not technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP).
Operatives collecting the recycling boxes sort the four streams, which are already partly sorted by residents into separate lorry compartments at the kerbside.
BGC was the fourth Welsh authority to move to kerbside sort from co-mingled collections, which are supported by the Welsh Government under its Collections Blueprint, following Powys, Neath Port Talbot and Merthyr Tydfil.
A petition describing the boxes as ‘inconvenient’ and ‘bulky’ has to date received over 2,500 signatures, with specific concerns about the suitability of housing in Blaenau Gwent to this type of system. As part of the new collection system, recycling is collected from the front of properties, while residual waste is taken from the back lanes behind houses, as was the case under the previous system.
Alison Powles, who created the petition said: ‘There has been no consideration to the residents of Blaenau Gwent and the local area. Many houses are terraced with small rear lanes that the collection trucks simply can’t fit on.
‘The trolleys provided are impractical and once filled, you cannot add any excess recycling, as you currently can by simply adding another bag. We as residents are paying for this service and feel very undermined.’
Council making alterations
The protest went ahead despite BGC last week pledging to alter the service after meeting with organisers of the protest. Among the changes offered by the council were alternative hessian bags for those who found their boxes unsuitable and a reversion to old collection points in back lanes.
A council spokesperson said: “Where your previous recycling was collected at the back lane and was changed to the front under the new service, the council will be trialling a lorry where the recycling pick up will be reverted to the back lane.
“We will be undertaking an assessment street by street where these changes have been made and reverting to rear lane collections.
“We have received a high number of requests to deal with assisted collections, swapping receptacles and alternative receptacles. Our waste wardens are working through these priorities and making contact with residents as soon as possible to help resolve their concerns.
“We understand that some residents feel that the previous co-mingled blue and white bag system was their preferred choice. Unfortunately this system no longer suits the current recycling requirements.”
New system ‘better for environment’ and council finances
Released following the protest, a council statement read: “The council is sympathetic that not all of the protesters’ wishes could be accommodated due to the change from co-mingling to the more environmentally clean kerbside sort system.
“We fully support the right of our citizens to protest and are making the necessary arrangements to allow those who wish to exercise this right to do so. We are open to further dialogue with the protesters and will make prompt arrangements to continue these meetings should they wish to participate.
“The new waste and recycling service that was introduced in October is a kerbside sort collection, which means that not only is it better for the environment and our children’s futures but it also means that the authority will generate an income from the recycling that will be sold at market value.
“Whilst kerbside sort collection cannot be disputed, we understand that some residents feel that the previous co-mingled blue and white bag system was their preferred choice. However, the council has had to consider options which work with the new service. The new service is now in its fourth week, and as with any service change of this level, it is assessed and reviewed to ensure that any issues are addressed.”
You can find out more about the recycling and refuse system in Blaenau Gwent at the council’s website. Or read more about Newtonabbey residents’ perception of Troliboc’s in Resource’s feature article.