Low contamination reported in four-weekly Fife trial

Fife begins four-weekly collection trialFife Council is seeking the views of residents who have taken part in its four-weekly residual waste collection trial, which has so far produced promising results.

Although it admits that conclusive figures will not be available until the trial has finished, the Scottish council says that collections to the 2,000 houses have seen a reduction in waste going to landfill and an increase in the amount of plastic, cans, paper and cardboard set out for recycling, as well as low contamination rates, since the trial began in September 2015.

Councillors are to be updated on the recycling bin collection trials, which also include a trial of three-weekly residual waste collections with three-weekly recycling collections at another 2,000 homes, on Wednesday (8 June).

A particularly pleasing of the aspect to the council will have been that there have only been five formal complaints made from residents within the trial areas since the pilot started.

To gain a wider appreciation for the resident view, a survey of households in the trial areas is currently underway. Fife Council is looking for 400 completed surveys (at least), and over two-thirds of these have been undertaken to date. The results will be analysed and reported back to the Council’s Executive Committee, alongside the other monitoring taking place in the trial areas.

The trials have now been underway for seven months and will continue to run at least for the full 12 months originally scheduled.

Systems being trialled could save £900,000 a year

The purpose of the trials is to investigate which collection method is best to meet Scottish Government recycling targets of 60 per cent by 2020 and 70 per cent by 2025. The current recycling rate in Fife Council is 54 per cent.

Fife Council operates a four-bin waste collection system with blue (residual), grey (paper/card), green (plastics/cans) and brown (kitchen/garden) bins. Currently, the standard collection service in Fife Council areas involves a fortnightly residual waste collection and a monthly recycling pick-up. Kitchen and garden waste are collected every two weeks.

An analysis of bin contents carried out before the trials were implemented revealed that over 50 per cent of the contents of residual waste bins could go in other kerbside recycling bins, and a further 20 per cent could be taken to recycling points and centres.

The trials have implemented less frequent residual collections and more frequent recycling collections, including the first implemented monthly collection of residual waste in Great Britain, following a 2014 trial in Banbridge in Northern Ireland, which saw landfill fall by 35 per cent and recycling rise to 64.5 per cent, but ended in March 2015.

In Markinch and Coaltown of Balgonie, blue, grey and green bins are collected every three weeks, while the communities of Thornton and Stenton have their blue and grey bins emptied every four weeks and their green bins emptied every fortnight.

An update in March suggested that the greatest improvement in both residual waste and recycling generation were found in the areas with four-weekly collection.

Fife Council Executive Committee has previously estimated that introducing the changes tested in the trials across the whole council area could save £350,000 a year, and possibly over £900,000 a year by 2021. Fife currently pays around £10 million per year in landfill fees and the council estimates that rising waste disposal charges could cost the council an extra £1.5 million each year if recycling rates don’t increase.

Fife ‘on track’ to meet Scottish Government target

Commenting on the results so far and the resident survey, Councillor John Wincott, Fife Council’s Sustainability Champion Councillor, said: “Thank you to everyone in the households in both trial areas. I know that change like this means that people have to work with us for it to succeed, and we have found that the vast majority of people have done this.

“We have found that landfill waste collected has gone down, and recycling up. Contamination levels and the numbers of blue bins [residual waste] with raised lids both remain low thanks to the commitment of local people.

“The pilots are designed to help us get more information so that we can meet the needs of local people, and develop a cleaner, greener Fife, as well as reduce our landfill tax costs.

“We are closely monitoring customer opinion of the trials to find out what is working for local people, which is why we’d like as many people as possible within the trial areas to take part in our survey.”

More information is available in Resource’s feature article on the trials, or at Fife Council’s website.