Conwy four-weekly collection plans scrapped

Conwy four-weekly collection plans scrappedA switch to four-weekly collections will not go ahead in the North Wales county of Conwy after its council’s cabinet voted against the proposal yesterday (23 February).

At the meeting of the Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC) cabinet, it was instead decided to introduce a three-weekly collection system for residual waste from this autumn, with a trial of a four-weekly system to be carried out once the new system has been successfully rolled out.

The council’s Customers Overview and Scrutiny Committee had recommended moving to a four-weekly collection system, stating that it would save the council an estimated £558,000 a year, while reducing residual waste generation by almost 18 per cent.

A report carried out by the Recycling Task & Finish Group, passed by the committee earlier this month, also considered a three-weekly collection system, but analysis concluded that a change to such a system would contribute less than half the savings of monthly collections (£213,000), while not offering as much of an increase in recycling.

However, following concerns from councillors, with Councillor Ronnie Hughes, CCBC Deputy Leader, calling a four-weekly collection “a bridge too far”, it was decided to approve a three-weekly alternative.

Recycling ‘reaching a plateau’

Waste disposal currently costs CCBC £2.9 million a year. The council’s Environment, Roads and Facilities department is required to contribute £1.41 million of revenue savings towards the council-wide £14 million budget reduction for 2016/17.

Conwy four-weekly collection plans scrappedCCBC incorporated the Trolibocs stackable recycling container into its separate kerbside collections in 2014. The council says that this has seen an increase in recycling rate, with its 2014/15 rate of 59 per cent meaning the council will likely meet the Welsh Government’s statutory recycling target of 58 per cent at the end of 2015/16 reporting period.

However, the council’s Head of Environment, Roads and Facilities, Geraint Edwards, has stated that recycling performance is at risk of ‘reaching a plateau’ and that under the present system the council is unlikely to hit future targets of 64 per cent by 2019/2020 and 70 per cent by 2024/25. Failure to meet the targets will result in fines of £200 for every tonne they are missed by.

'Better in theory than practice'

Of the 11,212 responses to a Recycle More survey carried out by the council in September last year, 55.4 per cent said they could manage with restricted residual waste collections if additional recycling collections, a separate nappy collection and larger bins for larger families were arranged.

However, at the cabinet meeting yesterday councillors expressed concern that moving straight to a four-weekly system from the county’s current fortnightly collection would be going “way too far”, while suggesting that it could result in significant fly-tipping increases in coastal and rural areas.

Cllr Hughes added that reducing collections to four-weekly would cause problems with the space in bins and the accommodation of an extra recycling bin, saying that a move to monthly collections would work better in theory than practice.

He did, however, state that following the roll-out of a three-weekly collection, he would welcome a review from council officers looking at the possibility of moving to a four-weekly system in the future.

It was agreed that a pilot would be carried out to test the practicality of the Recycling Task & Finish Group’s recommendations. 

Uncertainty hasn’t gone away

Darren Millar, Welsh Assembly Member for Clwyd West, told the BBC that he had been ‘bombarded’ with emails and letters from residents who were ‘dead set’ against the proposals and said after the cabinet had made its decision: “I am still concerned about the decision. It’s a better one than I was expecting, but lots of people will be angry about a reduction in the frequency of collections.

“There is still a threat that four-weekly collections may be imposed at some future date, that uncertainty hasn't gone away.”

Three-weekly collection in Wales

Conwy will now join several other Welsh local authorities in operating three-weekly collections.

In January, the cabinet of Anglesey County Council agreed to move to a three-weekly system, which is pencilled to start in October, while the councils in GwyneddPowys and Blaenau Gwent have already started three-weekly collections. Bridgend and Flintshire, meanwhile, are both currently considering a three-weekly change.

Conwy would have been the first LA to extend this change to four-weekly, a system currently only being trialled by Fife Council in the UK. Ceredigion and Caerphilly are currently considering both three and four-weekly collections as options.

A webcast of the Conwy County Borough Council cabinet meeting can be found on the council’s website.

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