Government

Conwy to start countywide four-weekly refuse collections in 2019

Conwy County Borough Council is set to implement a four-weekly black bin collection across the county next year, following a successful trial of the change.

The decision to move to the new collection frequency was made by councillors at a cabinet meeting last week (23 January) and will be phased in by the end of 2019, with dry recycling and food waste continuing to be collected every week.

LA Profile: Moving mountains
By reducing the collection of residual waste to monthly, the council aims to reduce the amount being thrown out by households and instead increase the area’s recycling rate, concluding a process that began almost two years ago.

Back in September 2016, the Council introduced a year-long trial of four-weekly refuse collections involving 10,900 households, alongside a wider roll-out of three-weekly collections to all other households in the county, in a bid to increase recycling rates and reduce waste management costs.

According to a report by Conwy’s Improved Recycling Task & Finish Group following the end of the trial in September 2017, it was found that recycling increased by 14 per cent in four-weekly areas, compared to an increase of five per cent in three-weekly areas. Households in the four-weekly areas also reduced 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. Concerns had been raised by some councillors, however, that the trial had created an unfair two-tier system for residents.

Conwy looked set to move to four-weekly collections back in November 2017, when the Task & Finish Group recommended that the Council implement the change countywide, but this was knocked back as councillors on the Councils Economy and Place Scrutiny Committee voted against the proposal a few days later, reaffirming its stance in another meeting on 11 January 2018.

However, the decision was taken to press ahead with the switch to four-weekly collections at last week’s cabinet meeting. Addressing the cabinet in support of a four-weekly system, Council Leader, Cllr Gareth Jones, said: “Time is not on our side neither locally, nor globally.  Increasingly, environmental and sustainability needs are changing political and economic policies.

“We are witnessing that – we have an opportunity to play our part in accelerating that change or stalling it. The message I want to present and I hope we can accept is that we accelerate our drive towards increasing recycling and reducing residual waste; that we educate ourselves in what that means and how we can help our residents achieve it.”

Jones went on to tell the cabinet that there were major drivers for change that could not be ignored when making the decision, including:

  • A detailed appraisal report by the Environment, Road and Facilities Department on the positive outcomes of the four-weekly trial;

  • The recommendation to move to four-weekly collections made by the Task and Finish Group;

  • That as Conwy increases its recycling rate and improves recycling collections, there will be a decreased need for residual waste collections; and

  • There are national and international trends towards the minimisation of residual waste in which Conwy Council needs to play its part.

In order to facilitate the shift to the new collection schedule and make it easier for families that struggled with the change to four-weekly collections during the trial, Jones proposed new measures to ease the transition, including a second bin for larger families, free bulky waste collections, mobile Recycling Centre services in rural areas, additional collections over Christmas, the expansion of the current nappy service and special assistance for particular circumstances such as when people miss a collection due to being on holiday.  

Jones also assured that extra recycling boxes would be made available and council waste officers would continue to look at the design of the Trolibocs system, while ensuring to communicate and provide advice to residents to help mitigate their concerns.

Almost all councillors present agreed that the two-tier system was unfair and would have to be rationalised into a single system - either three-weekly or four-weekly collections.

Expressed support for the motion came from some cabinet members, citing David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II and the need to protect the environment for future generations as reasons for support, as well as the evidence from the Task & Finish Group that four-weekly collections worked.

However there was also opposition to the proposal, but this opposition rested more on the rate of change as opposed to the change itself. One cabinet member expressed concerns over how residents would cope with a change to four-weekly collections and reiterated his promise to his constituents to vote against the change, although he conceded that if the changes were brought in, the transition would be eased by the immediate implementation of the Council Leader’s mitigation proposals.

Conwy to start countywide four-weekly refuse collections in 2019
Conwy uses a Trolibocs system to collect sorted recyclable materials from the kerbside
Other concerns raised included the impact of four-weekly collections on accommodation blocks and communal bins and the collection of pet waste and feminine hygiene products.

The proposal was put to a vote and the cabinet decided that it would implement four-weekly collections throughout the county in phases to be completed by the end of 2019.

Doubts remain

The decision has not been universally welcomed, with Chris Hughes, a Labour councillor, telling The Times that: “We’ve had a lot of complaints from residents [in the trial] and I think everyone in the whole county will be very disappointed with this decision. It’s a step too far. People will feel like they are being asked to pay more and more, while getting less and less services.”

Local Conservative Welsh Assembly member Janet Finch-Saunders, also speaking to The Times, added: “I am absolutely disgusted at this complete disregard for the interests of our residents here in Conwy.

“Families and households struggling with three-weekly collections will be rightly concerned as to how they will manage next year. The annual council tax rises appear to be returning very little in terms of service for residents, and indeed in this area, there has been a considerable reduction. Council taxpayers facing yet another five per cent increase on their bills will not be amused.”

Minutes and a webcast from the meeting of Conwy’s cabinet can be found on the council’s website.

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