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Cardiff proposes moving to monthly waste collections

Cardiff City Council’s Environment Scrutiny Committee will this afternoon (7 October) consider proposals to restrict residual waste either through reduced capacity or less frequent bin collections, as part of the council’s Draft Waste Management Strategy 2015 to 2018.

Cardiff proposes moving to monthly waste collectionsThe proposals have been mooted to help drive recyclable materials out of the residual waste stream and meet Welsh Government recycling targets. It comes after the council missed the 50 per cent recycling target in 2013/14, which – if financial penalties had been enforced – could have led to the council paying fines of more than £800,000.

The draft strategy reads: ‘[Recycling] has now plateaued and is unlikely to change without a service change to drive recycling out of the residual waste bins and bags…

‘The ‘do nothing option’ is not an option for Cardiff; if no further changes are made to the council recycling services delivery the fines between now and 2020 could equate to over £21m.’

In a bid to achieve the Welsh Government’s recycling targets (52 per cent next year, rising to 64 per cent by 2020), the council is now considering restricting residual waste by either: reducing bin capacity from 240-litres to 140-litres (collected fortnightly); or by changing the frequency of collections to three- or four-weekly. (Similarly, Torfaen County Borough Council is also currently consulting on restriciting capacity or moving to monthly waste collections to boost recycling.)

The proposals were chosen after a public consultation held in 2013 found that 54 per cent of people would recycle more if waste were restricted.

Speaking of the proposals, Councillor Bob Derbyshire, Cabinet Member for Environment said: "We are keenly aware of Welsh Government targets and the potential for being penalised if we fall short. This is why since November 2013 we have been working closely with Welsh Government on proposals for a new strategy to re-invigorate the city's recycling performance that is affordable, EU directive compliant, works for residents and fits the unique demands of the largest city in Wales with a high number of flats and high density accommodation to service. 

"In this new comprehensive strategy, we are concentrating on measures for consultation that will drive recycling rates up such as restricting volumes of residual waste.  Our most recent consultation showed at least 54 per cent would recycle more if their waste was restricted and we are consulting on the options for restricting non-recyclable waste further. In addition, the areas that can use wheeled bins but are on bags would be expanded and the remaining bag areas potentially provided with a comparable limit of bespoke waste bags."

Potential misinterpretation of the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations

The way the council recycles could also change (it currently operates a fortnightly co-mingled collection), with business cases being undertaken to establish the legal, economic and environmental ramifications of continuing with the current system, switching to a twin stream system (i.e. collecting glass and paper separately), or moving to separate-sort collections.

However, it seems that the council may have misinterpreted the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations’ requirement of introducing separate collections where ‘technically, environmentally, or economically practicable’ (TEEP).

In the report submitted to the committee, the council writes: ‘These regulations outline the need for separate collections of waste paper, metal, plastic or glass by January 2015 or a robust, evidence-based defence to demonstrate that the current collection methods used can achieve high quality recycling, whilst also being the best technical, environmental and economically practicable solution (TEEP).’

The issue here is that the Waste Regulations state that rather than choosing the ‘best’ TEEP solution, ‘every waste collection authority must, when making arrangements for the collection of waste paper, metal, plastic or glass, ensure that those arrangements are by way of separate collection’ where separate collection is:

(a) ‘necessary to ensure that waste undergoes recovery operations in accordance with Articles 4 and 13 of the Waste Framework Directive and to facilitate or improve recovery’; and

(b) ‘technically, environmentally and economically practicable’.

As such, the council should not be proving that their chosen system is the ‘best TEEP solution’, but rather that – if they decide not to implement separate collections – that separate collections are not TEEP.

Peter Jones, Senior Consultant at environmental consultancy firm Eunomia told Resource: "The Waste Regulations are by no means easy to interpret, and I’ve seen significant shortcomings in a number of compliance reviews of local authority services. Councils are going to be placing heavy reliance on these analyses, and it’s important that they’re based on a solid understanding of this tricky piece of law."

The cabinet will also consider the proposals this week, at a meeting on 9 October.

If approved, the proposals will be put out for public consultation, which will inform the coucnil's final decision (expected in the beginning of 2015).

It is expected the waste management strategy (whatever is chosen) will be in place by April 2015.

Find out how the Welsh Government has interpreted the TEEP test.

 

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