Government

Conwy close to monthly bin collection switch

Conwy close to monthly bin collection switch
Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC) could be close to a four-weekly residual waste collection after its Customers Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommended altering the system on Monday (8 February).

According to a report submitted to the committee, moving to a four-weekly collection system would save the council an estimated £558,000 a year, while reducing residual waste generation by almost 18 per cent.

Making the change to the current service, which consists of weekly recycling collections and fortnightly residual waste collections, the council predicts, would save around £340,000 in annual disposal costs and £370,000 in residual waste collection, while providing an additional recycling income of £75,000 a year. The estimated savings are only slightly offset by the required addition of a nappy recycling service, costing £75,000, and additional recycling vehicles and crews, costing £118,000 annually, as well as additional recycling centre charges of £34,000 a year.

The recommendations will now be taken to the council’s cabinet. Following approval, it would take around four months to prepare for the new recycling system.

Benefits

Waste disposal currently costs CCBC £2.9 million a year. The council’s Environment, Roads and Facilities department is required to contribute £1.41 million of revenue savings towards the council-wide £14 million budget reduction for 2016/17.

Three-weekly collections were considered by the Recycling Task & Finish Group, but analysis concluded that such a change would contribute less than half the savings of monthly collections (£213,000), while not offering as much of an increase in recycling.

CCBC incorporated the Trolibocs stackable recycling container into its separate kerbside collections in 2014. The council says that this has seen an increase in recycling rate from 56 per cent in 2013/14 to 59 per cent in 2014/15. The council will therefore likely meet the Welsh Government’s statutory recycling target of 58 per cent at the end of 2015/16 reporting period.

However, the report suggests that under the present system the council is unlikely to hit future targets of 64 per cent by 2019/2020 and 70 per cent by 2024/25. Failure to meet the targets will result in fines of £200 per tonne they are missed by.

By changing to a four-weekly residual waste collections schedule, the report estimates that the recycling rate could rise to 67 per cent within 12 months.

The report, presented by the council’s Head of Environment, Roads and Facilities Geraint Edwards, states that despite what it says is ‘one of the most comprehensive kerbside recycling services in Wales’, the council is still experiencing ‘large quantities’ of recyclable materials being put in residual waste wheelie bins.

It estimates that 52 per cent of the material sent to landfill from residual waste collections could be recycled using the council’s current kerbside recycling service. Food waste alone makes up 24 per cent of residual waste, 4,370 tonnes, according to the report, much of which is unopened and still in its packaging. An additional 13 per cent of materials in the residual waste stream could be taken to a nearby household waste recycling centre (HWRC).

Public opinion

Of the 11,212 responses to a Recycle More survey carried out by the council in September last year, 60.6 per cent said that their residual waste wheelie bin is generally half-full or less on collection day. Meanwhile, 55.4 per cent said they could manage with restricted residual waste collections if additional recycling collections, a separate nappy collection and larger bins for larger families were arranged.

Addressing several anticipated concerns, the council’s report quotes Zero Waste Scotland research that less-frequent collection poses no threat to public health through odours, bacteria or vermin as long as organic waste is correctly disposed of in the food waste bins and states that other local authorities that have instigated similar changes have not reported increases in fly-tipping.

‘More sustainable approach’ to waste collection needed

Writing in the report, Edwards states: ‘Recycling performance is at risk of reaching a plateau, with each percentage point increase becoming more and more challenging to achieve. As things stand, Conwy will not meet its statutory recycling targets without considering a more sustainable approach to the collection of waste and recycling.

‘In addition to achieving statutory recycling targets, the council incurs enormous costs for disposal of waste which by now adds up to approximately £11,500 per collection day. Conwy’s total annual cost of disposing of residual waste is approximately £2.9 million. This clearly is not a sustainable long-term situation.

‘As a council, our approach must be more than just an objective to avoid landfill, we must manage and treat waste as a valuable material resource that needs to be retained within the economy.’

Changes afoot in Wales

Welsh local authorities are increasingly looking to less frequent residual waste collections to pull their recycling rates closer to the Welsh Government’s statutory recycling targets.

Last month, the cabinet of Anglesey County Council agreed to move to a three-weekly system, which is pencilled to start in October. As part of the change, the council will be expanding the range of material that is taken in its weekly recycling collection.

A council report stated that the county’s recycling service ‘has reached a plateau in terms of “front-end” recycling at around the 55 per cent mark and even increased promotional initiatives have failed to further increase this recycling output’.

The councils in Gwynedd, Powys and Blaenau Gwent have already started three-weekly collections, while Bridgend and Flintshire are both currently considering a three-weekly change.

Conwy would be the first LA to extend this change to four-weekly, a system currently only being trialled by Fife Council in the UK, but Ceredigion and Caerphilly are currently considering both three and four-weekly collections as options.

The full report into waste collections in Conwy is available to view on the CCBC website.