North Somerset set to take waste services back in-house

North Somerset Council will be taking its waste and recycling services back in house with its current commercial contract with waste management company Biffa set to terminate early in April 2021.

The decision was reached at a Full Council meeting last night (23 September) after considering several different options for the future of North Somerset’s waste.

Recycling binNorth Somerset’s recycling and waste services include household kerbside collections and operating three recycling centres in Weston-super-Mare, Backwell and Portishead.

Since 2017, these have been contracted out to Biffa. Over the next few months Biffa will work together with the council to ensure a smooth transition. The new council-owned arms-length company that will take on the services, North Somerset Recycling Company, will be designed to prioritise resident experience and work proactively in local communities.

Cllr Bridget Petty, executive member responsible for recycling and waste, said: “It’s really important that our residents have the confidence that the council will continue to provide effective recycling and waste services and that staff, who will transfer over to the new company, will be supported through the transition process.

“We believe that the best way to deliver the quality local service we all need and deserve is to create a local company that has North Somerset at its heart.

“We want an excellent and reliable recycling and waste collection service for our residents and having an external provider has not always given us the flexibility we want to respond to the needs of our area.”

Roger Edwards, Managing Director – Municipal at Biffa, added: “Biffa is pleased that we have reached an agreement with the council regarding the future direction of the contract that is beneficial to all parties. We thank all the North Somerset staff and team for their hard work to deliver a great service to the residents of North Somerset throughout the pandemic.
"During the coming months we will work to ensure a smooth transition so that both the local team and the residents of North Somerset experience a seamless transfer. Although we will be sad to see valued colleagues leave Biffa, we wish them all well for the future.
With more councils moving to an in-house service delivery in recent times, a debate over whether waste and recycling services are better operated by councils or by contractors has raised its head again.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), which represents the largest private waste management companies in the UK, is adamant that the best way to organise council waste and recycling services is to contract them out. It was very critical of a Labour policy that aimed to encourage councils to keep their waste in house, accusing Labour of “putting ideology ahead of evidence”.

In the past, it has urged councils to rethink bringing waste services in-house claiming that it would save councils money and achieve higher recycling rates. A report the ESA ran found that over seven years, the average recycling rate for contracted-out services was 50 per cent, compared to 44 per cent for in-house services, though the method of collection can also have a big impact on recycling rates.

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