Conwy confirms four-weekly trial

The council hopes reducing the frequency of residual waste collections will push material into its kerbside sort recycling system.
Conwy Council has confirmed details of its new waste collection service, which will see a four-weekly residual waste collection trialled alongside a wider three-weekly rollout.

The change in system has been made to increase recycling after a year-long review by the council found that over half the items thrown into residual wheelie bins could have been recycled – a waste of £1.6m every year.

Conwy’s Improved Recycling Task & Finish Group met last week (9 May) to finalise plans for changing refuse bin collections in the county borough. The council will begin collecting refuse bins every three weeks at the end of July, while approximately 10,300 households in the Towyn and Kinmel Bay areas will have their bins collected every four weeks to trial a less frequent service.

In February, the cabinet of Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC) voted against a proposal to switch from fortnightly to four-weekly collections, calling it ‘a bridge too far’, and it was instead decided to introduce the three-weekly collection system for residual waste.

The council’s Customers Overview and Scrutiny Committee had estimated that a move to a four-weekly collection system would save the council an estimated £558,000 a year, while reducing residual waste generation by almost 18 per cent. On the other hand, a collection every three weeks is estimated to save £213,000, according to the Recycling Task & Finish Group).

The new bin collections will be phased in over the summer, starting at the end of July. Recycling and food waste will continue to be collected weekly, and additional recycling containers can be requested free of charge. Residents can also register to receive a separate nappy collection if required.

Concerns that new system will lead to increased fly-tipping and vermin

According to a survey carried out by the council late last year, less than half (41.2 per cent) of the 11,212 respondents said they would be able to manage with a wheelie bin collection every three or four weeks. Although with additional services such as separate nappy collections and extra bins for larger families, 55.4 per cent of those surveyed agreed to a less frequent collection system.

Approximately 20 per cent of Conwy’s households completed the Recycle More survey. Those involved were mostly concerned that less frequent refuse collections would attract vermin (53.3 per cent) and flies (55.7 per cent), increase fly-tipping (56.5 per cent), and produce odours (59.7 per cent).

Clwyd West AM Darren Millar, who had previously campaigned against the changes, has also expressed his concerns about the four-weekly trial. He said: “I am very concerned that the trial is commencing over the summer months when our visitor economy may be affected by the changes, and in particular that the Towyn and Kinmel Bay area is to be the pilot for four weekly collections, given the importance of tourism in the locality.”

Recycling targets

Conwy currently has a recycling rate of 59 per cent (2014/15), but the council says it must do more to meet the national statutory target of 70 per cent by 2025. Failure to meet the targets will result in fines of £200 for every tonne they are missed by.

The targets have already been cited as the main reason for the Isle of Anglesey County Council’s decision to move to three-weekly collection. The county will change its system in October after calculating that for every percentage point that the target was missed by it would have to pay £80,000 in fines.

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’. If the county’s current rate failed to improve by 2020, the nine per cent shortfall would equate to a fine of around £720,000.

A number of councils have recently trialled three-weekly residual waste collections in an attempt to increase their recycling rates. After two months of a trial scheme in Bury, the council released figures in August 2015 suggesting the kerbside recycling rate had risen by eight per cent. Rochdale Borough Council agreed in July last year to switch permanently to three-weekly collections in a bid to save money and raise its recycling rate of 34.5 per cent. Powys, Blaenau Gwent and Gwynedd have both rolled out three-weekly collection systems in Wales.

In September 2015, the Scottish LA of Fife became the first in Great Britain to trial monthly bin collections across 2,000 homes. A report release in March stated that the trial was ‘doing very well’, with recycling rates increasing.

More information is available at Conwy Council’s website.

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