Powys to begin three-weekly collection
The new system, which the Powys County Council estimates will save £480,000 a year, was given the green light by the cabinet last month.
Residents in Powys, the largest LA in Wales by area, covering 5,000 square kilometres, will still receive weekly food waste and recycling collections as the council seeks to encourage them to recycle ahead of increasing statutory recycling targets.
In the most recent figures released by the Welsh Government, Powys recorded a municipal recycling rate of 52.1 per cent, the fourth lowest rate in Wales and 4.1 percentage points lower than the national average of 56.2 per cent. As part of the Welsh Government’s Towards Zero Waste strategy, LAs have been set a 58 per cent recycling rate for the end of this reporting year (2015/16), with targets of 64 per cent and 70 per cent following in 2019/2020 and 2024/25 respectively.
Analysis of the composition of residual waste bins in Powys revealed that 32.81 per cent of material disposed of in the bins could be recycled.
Reductions to public sector funding have led to Powys County Council chasing £27 million of further savings to its spending over the next three years.
By reducing its residual waste collection, reducing landfill and transport costs (three fewer vehicles will be in operation), as well as avoiding potential penalties for missing statutory recycling targets, the council hopes to shave £480,000 off its waste budget per year.
Gwynedd Council, to the northwest of Powys, began to roll out a three-weekly residual waste collection system in October 2014 in an attempt to create council savings of £414,000 a year.
The new system will see householders retain 120- and 180-litre wheelie bins and purple refuse sacks. Families with two or more children in nappies will be offered support and additional capacity through an extra bin, while families of six or more people can request a larger, 240-litre wheelie bin or additional purple residual waste sacks.
Recycling and food waste collections will continue to take place every week. Under the current system, residents have three recycling boxes – one for plastics and cans, one for paper and card and one for glass – as well as a bin for food waste.
A public consultation of the plan to reduce the frequency of collections received 1,781 responses, with 66 per cent of respondents saying that they wouldn’t be able to manage with their current bin in a three-weekly collection system, and only 19 per cent stating that they could cope without any difficulty. However, 40 per cent of households that currently use a smaller 120-litre bin said that they could cope easily with a new system.
Sixty-five per cent said that their residual waste bin was full when collected, while 18 per cent said that it was only half full or less.
Council fighting ‘twin pressures’ of budget and statutory targets
Cabinet Member for Environmental Services Councillor John Powell said: “The service is facing the twin pressures of finding significant financial savings as part of the council’s overall budget response and meeting increasing and very challenging recycling targets set by the Welsh Government with severe financial penalties if we fail.
“Between 2010 and this year, the council rolled out a new kerbside collection service with residents provided with recycling boxes for glass, plastic and cans and paper and card, a special caddy for food waste – all of which are collected weekly.
“Analysis of the rubbish collected was carried out on behalf of the Welsh Government for all authorities during July and August 2015. For Powys, this showed that 32.81 per cent of material in the wheeled bin or purple sacks could actually be recycled at the kerbside. The majority of this is food waste (21.83 per cent) with the remainder being glass, paper and card, plastic and cans.
“Moving to a three-weekly rubbish collection system will deliver savings and ensure that even more of our waste is recycled. There is a long way to go to meet the Welsh Government’s targets and there will be even tougher limits in years to come. With residents’ support, we can meet both our budget and recycling targets.”
Reducing the frequency of waste collections was one of the solutions to stagnant recycling rates in England suggested by waste management company SUEZ in a report released in September. The study looked at how England can give its stagnant recycling rate a boost in time for the European Union target of 50 per cent recycling by 2020.
A number of councils have recently trialled three-weekly residual waste collections in an attempt to increase their recycling rates. After two months of a trial scheme in Bury, the council released figures in August suggesting the kerbside recycling rate had risen by eight per cent. Rochdale Borough Council agreed in July to switch permanently to three-weekly collections in a bid to save money and raise its recycling rate of 34.5 per cent.
In September, the Scottish LA of Fife became the first in Great Britain to trial monthly bin collections across 2,000 homes.
Full explanations of the change of collection system in Powys can be found at the council’s website.