Four-weekly residual waste collections begin in Conwy

Conwy County Borough Council has officially introduced a monthly collection of residual waste bins after facing repeated delays and opposition from councillors.

The move to four-weekly collections has been mooted for the Welsh local authority since early 2016, when an internal report suggested it could result in yearly savings of over £500,000.

The council also took note of a compositional analysis of its refuse bins that showed it was losing £1.6 million a year through valuable recycling ending up in residual waste. Cutting the number of residual collections has been shown to reduce residual waste generation and improve recycling rates as people are required to find more space in their general bins over the longer period between collections.

A 12-month trial of the four-weekly service commenced in September 2016 at the same time as three-weekly collections were introduced, and results revealed by the council were promising, with recycling rates up by 14 per cent in the 10,600 households on the scheme and refuse down 30 per cent. Conwy is currently sending 64 per cent of its waste for recycling, in line with the current Welsh Government target, but in order to meet the 2024/25 target of 70 per cent, the council will need to find new ways to boost its recycling rate.

Read more: Can four-weekly collections move mountains in Conwy?

However, making the official move to monthly collections has proved difficult for Conwy, with delays brought about by local councillors voting against the proposals in November 2017 and then voting to further delay the decision in March 2018.

Now, it seems the green light has finally been given, with the scheme set to begin this week in earnest. Cllr Donald Mile, cabinet member for environment, roads and facilities, cited improved capture of recyclate during the trial as the main reason for moving forward with the scheme, as well as improved attitudes to and engagement with recycling from residents.

“Everyone benefits when we recycle more,” Milne commented, “and thanks to the recycling efforts of those on the trial and the feedback they provided, we are confident that this new collection service will boost recycling rates further."

Not all councillors were in favour of the move, with Julie Fallon stating: “I understand that we all need to try to recycle more but I feel we should be working in a positive way with communities to do that. Not enforcing a four weekly collection whilst still increasing council tax.”

Reporting from mainstream media has largely focused on complaints from some Conwy residents, both about the potential for pests being attracted by the rubbish and about issues that may arise for large families producing a lot of waste. However, Conwy is keen to remind detractors of the additional services provided for residents, including a free second bin for larger families, free bulky waste collections and an extended nappy and incontinence waste collection service.

Will other councils follow suit?

Conwy is the first local authority in England and Wales to make the leap to monthly residual collections.

There is a marked disparity in kerbside residual waste collection systems across the UK. According to data from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), there are 342 schemes in operation across local authorities in the UK that collect waste on a fortnightly basis, and 210 schemes collecting waste bins every week (different councils may have multiple schemes running in tandem, depending on the requirements and location of different types of accommodation).

The Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM) stated its support for reduced collections in a letter to Conwy earlier this year, with the caveat that a number of extra services should also be offered – including those that Conwy is already providing such as weekly nappy and food waste collections (the latter is mandatory across all of Wales).

15 councils have so far made the move to three-weekly collections, and until now, only Falkirk Council has had a monthly scheme in place for some of its residents, while Fife trialled the concept in 2016. However, with local authority budgets for waste and recycling services being squeezed, it could be that more councils choose to make the move to reduce their residual waste collections in order to save money.

Moreover, if the improved recycling results of Conwy’s trial are replicated on a county-wide basis, then the business case for other councils to follow suit will further be strengthened.

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