Government

Welsh targets prompt Anglesey three-weekly consideration

Welsh targets prompt Anglesey three-weekly consideration
Anglesey will decide on Monday (25 January) whether to introduce three-weekly bin collections as a way of meeting ambitious Welsh recycling targets.

The Isle of Anglesey County Council’s Executive will discuss a report recommending the move as it tries to meet recycling targets, avoid heavy fines and improve the environment.

Following a preliminary report and a public consultation, the report recommends that a three-weekly residual waste collection begin in October 2016, with the staged introduction of stackable trolley boxes as funding becomes available.

Recycling in Anglesey is currently collected weekly, as part of the council’s waste collection contract with Biffa, which runs until 2021. The collections take plastic bottles, mixed cans and glass from a 55-litre blue box, paper and card from a 40-litre red box, and food waste from a 23-litre brown bin. Garden waste is collected fortnightly from a 240-litre green bin.

Under a three-weekly system, the weekly recycling collection would continue, with the council providing an extra 55-litre box for recycling mixed plastics such as pots, tubs and trays.

Targets

The report notes that the main driver behind the change is the prospect of the Welsh Government’s ‘very ambitious’ statutory local authority (LA) targets for reuse, recycling and recovery set out in its Towards Zero Waste strategy. These require Welsh LAs to recycle 58 per cent of municipal waste in 2015/16, 64 per cent by 2019/20 and 70 per cent by 2024/25.

According to the council, 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’.

Failure to meet government targets would result in fines of £200 per tonne below the statutory recycling rate. This, the report demonstrates, would mean that, for Anglesey, for every one per cent that the rate falls below the targets, the council would have to pay £80,000 in fines. Therefore, if the county’s current rate fails to improve by 2020, the nine per cent shortfall would equate to a fine of around £720,000.

It also notes that recycling material is currently over £40 per tonne cheaper than collecting and treating a tonne of residual waste. A system that encourages residents to divert residual waste to recycling collections would therefore, it says, reduce the risk of fines as well as the cost of residual treatment.

Under the proposal, a capital sum of £509,000 would be required to purchase additional recycling bins to collect all types of plastic – with only ‘soft’ plastics like plastic bottles collected under the current system – as well as a new baler for the collected plastics at the Gwalchmai site, and to fund additional work for consultants to encourage the public to increase recycling.

However, a report carried out by Eunomia Research & Consulting predicts that the change would provide savings of £108,000 a year.

Alternative options

Several options to increase the county’s recycling rate were considered by council officers, including introducing smaller residual waste bins and maintaining a fortnightly collection cycle. However this was found not to be cost-effective, requiring a capital budget of £1.25 million while providing annual revenue savings of just £46,000 a year.

Four-weekly collections were also considered, and officers estimated that such a system would create annual revenue savings more than double those of a three-weekly one, as well as significantly improved performance.

The report also notes that a survey of authorities that have switched to three-weekly residual collection ‘highlighted that many of these saw no reason why a four-weekly residual waste collection service could not work, with the added benefits of additional recycling and improved financial savings’.

However, it suggests that a three-weekly system be adopted first and that should this achieve the desired recycling target of 70 per cent, four-weekly collections could be avoided.

‘High levels’ of recyclables still thrown away

Head of Highways, Waste and Property, Dewi Williams, explained: “We face major challenges in meeting future statutory recycling targets set by the Welsh Government, combined with a need to operate services more efficiently due to budget cuts.

“The fundamental principle of this report is that collecting and processing recycling materials is far cheaper than collecting and disposing of ‘black bin’ residual waste. Our main aim is, therefore, to reduce the level of residual waste and increase recycling levels.

“Whilst the financial savings from implementing three-weekly collections would be minimal, the move should help the County Council reach a recycling rate of around 68 per cent and – if recycling can be improved beyond this figure – we’d hope that four-weekly collections could be avoided in the future.”

Highways, Waste and Property portfolio holder, Councillor John Arwel Roberts, added: “Over 75 per cent of the waste we produce in the home is recyclable. However, recent research has shown that very high levels of recyclable material are still being thrown into the black bin on Anglesey. This means many people aren’t fully using the recycling services available. Reducing ‘black bin’ collections will encourage householders to make the most of their recycling collection service.”

The full report can be found on the Isle of Anglesey County Council’s website

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