Barnet considers scrapping separate food waste service

Barnet Council is considering scrapping its weekly food waste collections in favour of sending it to incineration along with residual waste, despite the local Conservative Party’s election manifesto containing a promise to maintain the service.

The Conservative-majority council’s environment committee is set to meet tomorrow evening (5 June) in order to discuss plans to stop collecting garden waste for three months over winter and to scrap food waste collections completely. Proposals could also see recycling bring bank sites scrapped for residents without a kerbside service.

Barnet considers scrapping separate food waste service
Barnet High Street

The plans, which are designed to save £830,000 a year, appear to represent a significant U-turn for the council after the Conservative local election campaign made claims that a Labour administration would scrap weekly food waste collections. The council has recently come in for criticism for repeatedly missing weekly collection targets, while claiming only 25 to 30 per cent of residents in the London borough make use of the food waste collections.

An official report prepared by Conservative councillor Dean Cohen, Chair of the council’s environment committee, in advance of tomorrow’s meeting, states that the additional cost of weekly separate food waste collections on top of existing recycling service costs is £300,000 for around 5,000 tonnes of food waste, equating to £60 per tonne collected.

The report contains a proposal to not only stop the separate collection of food waste, but to put this food waste in with residual waste and send it to energy-from-waste (EfW) processing. The report states that the food waste cannot go into green garden waste bins due to current composting arrangements only accepting plant products and not food products.

Other proposals include: changes to bin collection dates and waste collection rounds; the removal of recycling bring bank sites; suspension of the garden waste service for three months during the winter; the introduction of charges for replacement recycling and waste containers (replacing containers cost the council £315,984 last year), and time-banded waste collections in town centres.

Residents wishing to submit questions to the environment committee regarding the new proposals had until 10am on Thursday (31 May) to do so, in advance of the environment committee’s meeting tomorrow at 7pm at Hendon Town Hall.

The council’s plan to explore removing weekly food waste collections appears perplexing given that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has just released the final version of the London Environment Strategy, which has set a target of reducing the capital’s food waste by 50 per cent by 2030. Included in that strategy is a requirement for councils to provide separate food waste collections by 2020.

Talking to the Barnet Borough Times, Labour councillor Alan Schneiderman said: “Not even a month after the election, Barnet Tories are already starting to cut bin collections despite their election promises. It’s quite clear that the plan to cut green waste collections and scrap food collections entirely was drawn up before the election but kept secret until now. These plans are bad news for residents and the environment and Labour councillors will be opposing them. How long before the three-month suspension of garden waste collections becomes permanent and how long before other bin collections are affected?”

In response, ahead of the meeting of the environment committee, Cohen said: “We know that refuse and recycling collections are of huge importance to residents in Barnet. We are therefore looking at how we can continue to provide a high-quality service, in the most efficient way. We will be discussing a range of waste collection proposals... including changes to garden waste during winter months and incorporating food waste into the existing waste collection service.”

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