Mobile centre brings recycling to rural residents

Now nearing the end of its two-and-a-half-year trial, Conwy Council’s Waste Manager Jim Espley explains how the Mobile Recycling Centre project has been received.

In September 2018, Conwy County Borough Council became the first council in England and Wales to move to four-weekly residual waste collections. To support the change, the Council introduced a Mobile Recycling Centre for rural residents, designed to keep frequent recycling opportunities accessible to everyone in Conwy. 

Before the Mobile Recycling Centres were introduced, Conwy Council had two permanent Household Recycling Centres, both lying on the coast in the north of the county, which meant that those living in the rural south of Conwy could have a 50-mile round trip to use those facilities. The three locations for the Mobile Recycling Centre were chosen to ensure that no matter where in Conwy they live, residents live within a 20-mile round trip to a recycling centre from their house.

Conwy's Mobile Recycling Centre
Conwy's Mobile Recycling Centre
The Mobile Recycling Centres operate between 09:00 and 11:00 on the first three Saturdays of each month, at Cerrigydrudion on the first weekend, Glasdir, Llanrwst on the second and Llangernyw on the third.

The trial began in October 2018 upon receiving £40,000 of funding from Conwy Cynhaliol Rural Development Project. Espley explained that the project has cost £30,000 a year to run, with the additional funding coming from the Council’s revenue budget.

“It’s certainly made a more equitable approach for people in the south of the county. The opportunity of recycling materials and avoiding the fifty-mile trip makes it more likely that would happen,” Espley explained.

“We got some grant money, spent some revenue money on it, in isolation that might look like an increase in spend but when you stick it all together there are big savings that have come out of that entire project.”

Three recycling streams are available at the Mobile Recycling Centres: one refuse wagon that accepts garden waste, an open-back 40-yard skip which is sorted on return to Conwy’s transfer station, and a Luton Van that collects bulky waste and reuse items that are repaired and sold on.

After the first national Covid-19 lockdown was relaxed in May last year, Conwy Council moved to a booking system for all five Recycling Centres, which Espley believes has been instrumental to the continued success of the Mobile Recycling Centres.

“[The Mobile Centres] are certainly well received, there is a bit of peak and trough particularly in the winter months, but it has been an exceptional year. We applied a booking system to the mobile system, and they tend to get booked up,” he said.

“I think one of the successes is probably inadvertently introducing the booking system after the Covid shutdown because that has made it quite a systematic, controlled environment to work in, so I would say that is one of the positives to come out of it.”

Since the appointment system was introduced, the Mobile Recycling Centre has received an average of 700kg of material to the walk-in skip, 150kg of green waste and around 500kg of reuse items on each visit to one of the three sites.

Recycling rates in Conwy have increased since the introduction of four-weekly residual waste collections and the Mobile Recycling Centre, up to 69.3 per cent for year 2019-20, the fifth-highest in Wales.

When the trial period ends later this year, Espley explained that the Environment, Roads and Facilities department will review how well the service has been received and state the case to the Council for its continuation.

Espley added: “The idea is to give everywhere the same opportunity to recycle which means we may need to invest and find the budget to do that, but I think in terms of being equitable and fair across the county that’s what we need to do.”