Government

Solution found to Blaenau Gwent recycling issues

Solution found to Blaenau Gwent recycling issues
Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council (BGCBC) is to reintroduce rear-lane recycling collections to 19 areas from January, after protests about the implementation of a new waste collection system.

The move, taken three months after the new system was brought in, forms part of a long-term plan to reconfigure collections in areas with back lanes that will cost the council £250,000.

A report written by the council’s Service Manager for Community Services, delivered to a meeting of the Executive on Monday (21 December), has established the plan to alter the service, which started on 26 October this year, following a review by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Previously, both recycling and residual waste collection were carried out in the back lanes of areas of the county that had them. This was changed with the introduction of a system involving stackable kerb-sort recycling boxes, known as Trollibocs, after a council ‘route optimisation’ review concluded that kerbside collections would provide greater productivity and safety for collection crews.

The move proved unpopular with some residents, who complained that the council had paid ‘no consideration to the residents… and the local area’ and that some would have to carry three recycling boxes through their homes on collection days, with elderly and less able bodied residents struggling to participate.

BGC's explanation of the new system
A petition against the system, describing it as ‘inconvenient’ and ‘bulky’, has to date received over 2,500 signatures. The reaction against the system culminated in a protest outside the BGCBC headquarters in Ebbw Vale.

The council report notes that issues with the locations of recycling collections has, in certain areas, led to very low participation and ‘missed opportunities’ to increase recycling tonnages.

It therefore commissioned WRAP to independently review the situation, taking participation, health and safety, vehicle specifications and cost into account. The WRAP report concluded that rear-lane collections should be returned to areas with less than 40 per cent participation on an interim basis while a long-term solution is sought.

Reintroduction

Subsequently, rear lanes collections will recommence in 667 properties across 19 areas of Blaenau Gwent in January. Combined, these areas have an average participation level of 28.4 per cent.

This temporary solution will require the council to hire a smaller vehicle to cover the amended routes on two days a week, at a cost of around £23,000.

To carry out WRAP’s long-term solution to the issue, three vehicles would need to be procured to carry out altered collections to the 4,536 properties identified by the study, with a fourth bought to cover for servicing or breakdowns. Six additional staff would also need to be employed. This would lead to additional annual costs to the council of £250,000.

Missed collections

The report acknowledges that there were issues with rounds not being completed on time, but stated that rounds have been altered in recent weeks to rectify the problem. It is also working with crews to determine the cause of missed collections, which includes contamination issues and containers not being put out on time by residents.

Though no official figures verified by regulator Natural Resources Wales will be available until the end of the quarter, council data suggests that residual waste collected in November totalled 1,067 tonnes, a 15 per cent reduction on the 1,259 tonnes collected in November 2014.

Councillor David White, Executive Member for Environment, said: “These are still early days for the new system, and councillors felt that the initial findings contained within the report should be approached with a little caution at this stage as participation will be further verified in an ongoing review.

“The council would like to thank residents for their recycling efforts and we would like to reassure our community that we are continuing to work through the solutions to allow households to increase the amount they recycle for the long-term benefits to the environment.”

The full council report into rear lane collections can be found on the BGCBC website.

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