Kerb-sort switch could save Welsh councils millions – WRAP

Switching to source-separated collections could save Welsh councils over a million pounds a year, according to research carried out by WRAP Cymru.

The Welsh branch of the Waste & Resources Action Programme has compared the costs of source-separated, dual-stream and co-mingled kerbside collections for a Welsh Government-commissioned study – ‘Harmonised Recycling Collections Costs Project: Phase One’.

Kerb-sort switch could save Welsh councils millions – WRAP As part of the Welsh Government’s ‘Towards Zero Waste’ strategy, Welsh local authorities have been set a progression of recycling targets, culminating in a recycling rate goal of 70 per cent by 2025, with intermediate targets of 52 per cent by 2012/13, 58 per cent by 2015/16 and 64 per cent by 2019/20 and penalties for councils that do not hit their goals.

To work towards these targets, the Welsh Government established a Collections Blueprint in 2011, setting out a system template that it felt would lead to the best recycling results and financial outcome for its 22 local authorities.

The suitability of the blueprint-preferred model – a ‘kerbside-sort’ system, with weekly separate collections of dry recyclables and food waste, and fortnightly collections of residual waste – was reiterated by an independent review by Eunomia Research & Consulting earlier this year.

Details of savings

This study, commissioned by the Welsh Government, sought to assess the costs of each type of collection, with the assumption that targets would be worked towards and hit.

The WRAP Cymru research assumed that, because of these targets, weekly recycling collections, weekly food waste collections and restrictions on the amount of residual waste collected (either through slimmer bins or less frequent collections), as set out in the Collections Blueprint, would be needed by each council to fulfil their obligations.

Therefore the main difference between recycling collection systems was considered to be that of source-separated collections versus co-mingled (from single containers) and two-stream collections (a box for glass and a single container for other materials).

The report suggests that by switching from a co-mingled system to source separation, or kerbside sort, the annual savings achievable by authorities were in the region of between £900,000 and £1.2 million, depending on how rural the council is.

Furthermore, it concluded that £1-1.3 million could be saved when switching from a twin-stream collection to a source-separated one.

These figures were found by calculating the annual operating costs of each of the collection vehicles, taking into account vehicles, staff, containers, depot operating costs, dry recycling income/gate fees, food waste processing and residual waste disposal.

In all instances, spread across urban, rural and valley authorities, source separation provided the lowest cost, followed by single-stream co-mingled, with twin-stream co-mingled the most expensive.

Although source-separated collections require the greatest initial outlay for councils with no existing infrastructure, the payback time for all authority types is under two years.

Such collections also require more vehicles and staff, but overall savings are driven by the dry processing costs generating an income, rather than being subject to a gate fee. The study also found that vehicles are lower cost and more fuel-efficient and that materials collected separately at source do not need to be re-separated, meaning bulking and sorting costs less.

Potential kerbside-sort savings ‘significant’

The report also noted: ‘Each option will still require significant initial investment, particularly if Wales as a whole were to move towards a harmonised collection method. Even where authorities currently provide the chosen harmonised collection method, there may be a required need to change, for example containment methods or colours of container.’

Commenting on the report, Carl Nichols, Head of WRAP Cymru, said: “Whilst it must be noted that it may not be feasible for every authority to make the same savings [these would depend on ‘the size of the authority, the current service provision, the authority’s inherent productivity and the individual relative material income and processing cost’], our report shows that the potential overall annual savings of adopting the source-separated collection method are significant, and that the initial outlay of switching over can be recouped within two years.”

As the name of the report suggests, the research will now move onto a second phase, which will analyse the cost implications of alternative delivery structures, specifically the regional and national delivery of waste and recycling services.

The full ‘Harmonised Recycling Collections Costs Project: Phase One’ report can be read and downloaded from the WRAP Cymru website.

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