Conwy set for four-weekly bin collections as move comes too soon for Newport
Conwy could be about to move to four-weekly residual waste collections across the whole county after a successful year-long trial, a move that a task and finish group has said could save the council nearly £400,000 a year.
In a bid to increase recycling rates from its current 63 per cent, Conwy County Borough Council introduced a year-long trial of four-weekly refuse collections involving 10,900 households in September of last year, alongside a wider roll-out of three-weekly collections to all other households in the area. Both reduced frequency systems ran alongside weekly recycling and food waste collections.
The trial was implemented after a compositional analysis of what was going into refuse bins in Conwy revealed that more than half of all the items thrown away could have been recycled, a fact that was losing the Council £1.6 million a year.
The results of the trial have been largely positive. According to a report by Conwy’s Improved Recycling Task & Finish Group, recycling increased by five per cent in three-weekly areas, compared to an increase of 14 per cent in four-weekly areas, with households in the four-weekly areas reducing the total amount of refuse placed in their bins by 31 per cent, compared to the 20 per cent reduction achieved by those in three-weekly areas.
And while there were fears that residents would reject the idea of having their residual waste collected once a month, the council report says that an independent householder survey found that the proportion of residents expressing negative attitudes towards the changes has fallen from 41 per cent to 26 per cent following constant engagement and communication from the council.
In addition to this, it's estimated that a saving of £390,000 a year could be made by the council by operating a four-weekly service instead of a three-weekly one.
After assessing all the evidence gathered over the course of the trial, the Task and Finish Group has recommended to the council that it implements four-weekly residual collections across the entire county. The group’s findings will be considered at a meeting of the Economy and Place Scrutiny Committee on Monday (20 November), before going before Cabinet on 5 December.
If the recommendation were to be taken forward, the group has made clear in the report that ‘a comprehensive communications programme is essential, particularly focused on social media, in addition to the ongoing effective street level and doorstep campaign’.
The direction of travel has not been welcomed by everyone, however, with local Assembly Member for Aberconwy, Janet Finch-Saunders, telling local paper the Conwy Daily Post that she remained “strongly opposed” to any roll-out of four-weekly collections as some residents remain unconvinced by the proposed changes.
Finch-Saunders pointed to “the potential damage to our environment and tourism industry caused by increased fly-tipping and pests”, despite there being no evidence that incidences of either have increased since the beginning of the trial.
She continued: "Residents, particularly our families and older population, will really struggle with monthly bin collections – especially over the summer months where the heat may affect waste left out for so long, and when holidays may mean that some residents have to wait two months to have their refuse collected.
"The suggestion of a move to four-weekly bin collections is a step too far, and I call on the Council's Cabinet to put such suggestions on hold until an alternative, workable resolution can be found, to include a full and open consultation with residents."
Newport backs out of three-weekly move
As plans progress in Conwy, in the south of Wales, Newport City Council has scrapped a move to three-weekly refuse collections.
A working group from Newport City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee decided not to support the changes at a meeting yesterday (16 November), with Labour Councillor Jason Hughes telling the South Wales Argus that he did not feel Newport was “ready as a city” for three-weekly collections, despite council officers estimating that a switch could improve the town’s recycling rate by six per cent.
Five scenarios for revised kerbside collection services were modelled in a report by the Committee, all of which envisaged a switch to three-weekly collections and revealed that such a switch would give Newport the best chance of reaching the 70 per cent statutory target for 2024/25.
However, the group decided against supporting the changes due to existing issues with low recycling rates in certain areas where people were not engaging with the current recycling scheme, issues with storing recycling and waste materials in urban areas and flats, the need to improve communications with the public and issues with fly-tipping and littering in urban areas.
In order to encourage improvements in recycling, the Welsh Government has set a number of statutory recycling targets for its councils, culminating in a 70 per cent target in 2024/25. Should local authorities miss these targets they will be liable to fines, something the report acknowledges, stating that this represents ‘a significant risk’ to the council in the run up to 2024/25.
You can read more about Conwy’s four-weekly collections trial in our Resource 89 article on the topic - ‘Can four-weekly collections move mountains in Conwy?’