Blaenau Gwent approves switch to kerbside sort

The Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council (BGCBC) executive has today (24 September) approved the Environment Committee’s proposals to move to a three-weekly residual waste collection service and switch to a weekly kerbside-sort recycling system.

The move, which is expected to be implemented by March 2016, aims to save the council up to £1 million, boost recycling rates by around 10 per cent and ensure that the council’s waste systems ‘follow the Welsh Government Collection Blueprint’ and comply with the Waste Regulations, which require all local authorities in England and Wales to have separate collections of paper, plastic, metal and glass by 1 January 2015 (unless it is not necessary to provide high-quality recyclates or is not technically, environmentally or economically practicable (TEEP)).

As such, residents will switch from a two-stream dry recycling service (using single-use sacks for fibres, and another for containers) to a recycling box system, which will be collected once a week along with food waste. Food waste will be collected in the same caddy as before.

All of the sorting will be done by operatives at the kerbside into vehicles, which have separate compartments for different waste streams (such as that pictured, right).

Authority’s current recycling collection service 'does not comply' with Waste Regs

Speaking of the changes, Executive Member for Waste Management and Recycling Councillor David White, said: “There are a number of reasons why this change is required:  

  • To comply with the European Legislation - the Waste framework Directive and The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 - which relates to the separate collection of waste, from 1 January 2015 waste collection authorities must collect waste paper, metal, plastic and glass separately. The authority’s current recycling collection service does not comply with this requirement, as materials are collected commingled and not separately
  • To boost recycling and food waste rates – the Welsh Government expects all councils to recycle or compost 58 per cent of all the waste it collects from homes by March 2016 this will increase to 70 per cent by 2025.
  • To avoid the significant financial penalties the authority would face if the national recycling and landfill targets are not hit.

“Recycling and food waste will continue to be collected on a weekly basis, with additional items collected as part of the recycling such as batteries, small electrical items and textiles. The council is also reviewing its current offensive waste service provided. 

“Whilst three weeks may seem like a lengthy collection of residential waste, there are improvements to be made in the way that we recycle. Currently only 54 per cent of waste is recycled. Throughout this change in service, residents will be encouraged to think about their recycling and look beyond just their kitchen to recycle materials. There are improvements to be made in how we recycle in general.”

He added that the council will now procure the equipment it requires for the new service (and initiate a community engagement process to help residents fully understand the changes to the service.

BGCBC has become the fourth Welsh authority to move to kerbside sort collections from some sort of co-mingled service, following Powys County Council, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.

The move to three-weekly collection is also part of a growing trend amongst local authorities throughout the UK. Scotland’s Falkirk Council started three-weekly collections in April, while Gwyndedd Council in Wales and Bury Council in England will be implementing a similar collection service in October.

Welsh Government recycling blueprint

The Welsh Government has been supportive of councils moving to kerbside-sort collections, and in 2011, WRAP Cymru (the Welsh branch of the Waste & Resources Action Programme, part-funded by the Welsh Government), published its Collections Blueprint recommending that local authorities run kerbside-sort collections for paper; cardboard; plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays; metal cans and small scrap (e.g. kitchen utensils); and glass jars and bottles, as an effective means of reaching Wales’s statutory recycling targets.

Further to this, earlier this year it released draft guidance to ‘offer clarity on the legal requirements for separate collections for local authorities and waste collection providers operating in Wales’.

It outlines that separating materials for recycling avoids contamination and ensures that they can be recycled to a higher standard.  

However, the guidance highlights that although the Waste Regulations set separate collection as the default position, they ‘don’t prohibit the use of mixed or co-mingled collections of paper, metal, plastic and glass as long as it results in a similar quantity of high-quality recyclates, to that achievable by separate collection, or if separate collection isn’t technically, environmentally or economically practicable’. 

Find out more about the requirement for local authorities in England and Wales to introduce separate recycling collections by 2015.