Falkirk to process own recycling

Waste management companies develop apprenticeship standardFalkirk Council, one of the local authorities carrying out three-weekly residual waste collections, is to take the processing of recyclable material from kerbside collections in-house in an attempt to cut down on ‘unsustainable’ gate fees.

The proposal was approved at a meeting of Falkirk’s Executive Committee on Tuesday (12 January).

In October, the Executive authorised a review of costs associations with its blue bin collection service – a co-mingled wheelie bin taking paper, metal, cardboard and plastic containers every fortnight – after concerns at the ‘significant issues’ in processing costs were noted.

At Tuesday’s meeting, it was highlighted that this situation has deteriorated due to a number of factors including market conditions driving up the price of processing co-mingled dry recyclate and recent weather resulting in ‘an excessive volume of material’ not being deemed fit for processing and penalty charges being placed on the council.

The council currently has a contract with SUEZ recycling and recovery UK to process the recyclate collected by its kerbside system and estimates that with the average cost of processing mixed dry recyclate now projected to reach £65 per tonne, it would have to pay in excess of £648,000 for the 2015/16 year, rising to around £780,000 when applied to a full financial year in 2016/17.

However, under a proposal to process material at the council’s current transfer facility at Roughmute, the cost to the council of processing material could potentially be cut by almost two-thirds.


Adapting the facility to process waste would require a one-off purchase of sorting equipment that the council anticipates would cost around £200,000, which would be met by the council’s Waste Strategy Repairs and Renewals fund, specifically available for the purchase of recycling equipment. The proposal would also require 10 additional staff to be recruited at a cost of £280,912 a year.

However, the council estimates that gate fees for an in-house facility would be around £23.41 per tonne, compared to the current market price of around £65 per tonne that it would pay if it continued to pay SITA to process its recycling.

In addition, the council would retain any income obtained from the onward sale of material after it had been processed.

Minimal adaptation

The report’s author, Director of Development Services Rhona Geisler, told councillors: ‘Officers have sought prices from four other processors currently on the Scotland Excel framework. Of the four, two declined to submit prices, one did not respond and the fourth submitted prices in excess of the prices being quoted by [SUEZ]. Therefore, should the council be minded to change from its current provider, it would still be required to pay costs that are unsustainable.

‘Due to the significant shift in the costs associated with processing, it is now possible for the council to consider processing the material using its existing transfer facility. This facility already has equipment in place to process this material and would require minimal adaption to make it possible to complete the processing works necessary.’

Three-weekly residual collection

Falkirk became the first local authority (LA) in the UK to provide a three-weekly residual waste collection service to residents when it began implementing the system in April 2014.

The roll-out of the system was completed in March, with the council hoping that the less frequent collection will raise its household recycling rate by 6.5 per cent – diverting around 9,000 extra tonnes of material to recycling – and save £385,000 a year by 2015/16.

The frequency of the council’s weekly food waste collections and fortnightly dry recycling and green waste collections did not change under the new system.

In the last reporting period (2014), Falkirk recorded a household recycling rate of 54.3 per cent, the seventh highest of the 32 Scottish LAs and up from 53.0 per cent in 2013. Under the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan, LAs must recycle 60 per cent of their waste by 2020.

More information on recycling and waste in Falkirk can be found on Falkirk Council’s website.