Gwynedd Council considers three-weekly waste collections

Gwynedd Council’s Cabinet will meet on Tuesday (29 April) to consider a recommendation to change its residual waste collection from a fortnightly to a three-weekly service.

The recommendation comes in a report submitted to the cabinet that suggests moving to a three-weekly residual waste system could save money and increase recycling rates (currently at around 50 per cent), thus helping the council meet the Welsh Government’s target of recycling or composting 58 per cent of household waste by March 2016.

If these statutory targets are not met, local authorities will face fines of £200 for every tonne under the threshold.

Gwynedd Council has already implemented a range of service changes to encourage residents to recycling and compost more, including expanding its weekly recycling service offering to include a wider range of plastics, and introducing a weekly food waste service.

However, it is thought that moving to less frequent residual waste collections will help further recycling efforts. If the report recommendation is approved, it is expected that the changes will be implemented in incremental steps from October 2014 onwards, making Gwynedd the second council to move to three-weekly waste collections (after Falkirk introduces its new scheme next month).

‘Changes could save £350,000 per year’

Speaking of the proposed changes, Gwynedd Council’s Environment Cabinet Member, Councillor Gareth Roberts, said that at the moment only half of Gwynedd’s residents use the weekly recycling and food waste services, and that although he is thankful to these residents, this change is directed at those who continue to put recyclable waste in landfill.

He commented: “If we don’t act now, it is only a matter of time before the council is hit with massive financial penalties which we simply cannot afford. The fact that we were within a hair’s breadth of incurring a £123,000 Welsh Government fine in 2012/13, suggests that we would reach this point sooner rather than later unless we persuade more households to get recycling.

“As well as avoiding huge financial penalties, it is also a fact that cuts in government funding mean that Gwynedd Council is facing a funding gap of around £50 million between now and 2017/18 and that implementing these changes now will deliver an annual financial saving of around £350,000 for the council and enable us to avoid painful service cuts elsewhere.”

Nearly half of residents have ‘no concerns at all’ with proposed changes

The report to the council cabinet follows a recent public consultation and Citizen Panel survey in which local residents were asked about their thoughts on the council’s recycling services. It found that:

  • 89 per cent (1,671) of respondents to the public survey and 94 per cent (634) of respondents to the Citizen’s Panel survey agreed that the council should ‘take steps to encourage more people to recycle and compost their waste in order to avoid fines’;
  • 76 per cent of respondents to the public survey and 70 per cent of panel respondents wanted ‘more simple information explaining the process in detail’; and
  • 43 per cent of survey respondents and 54 per cent of panel respondents stated that they had ‘no concerns at all’ with the proposed change.

However, 56 per cent of respondents to the public survey and 45 per cent of respondents to the Citizen’s Panel stated that collecting residual waste every three weeks rather than every fortnight would cause problems for their household.

Every respondent who noted that a change would cause them problems was then given the opportunity to outline their specific concern so that the council could identify possible solutions. Concerns revolved around arrangements for collecting nappies; general odour issues; and practical concerns such as the effect on larger households. The council has said it is now ‘working on identifying solutions to these concerns’.

Roberts concluded: “We are extremely grateful to everyone who has taken the time to tell us what they think about the current arrangements, the proposed change, possible concerns and constructive ideas for increasing recycling rates.

“We have listened carefully to what residents have said and, if the report recommendations are approved, further detailed work would be undertaken to address the main points raised before changes were introduced. For example, in response to the comments received, arrangements would be made for the collection of nappies every fortnight, special arrangements would be put in place for older or disabled residents and larger bins would be provided for households with more than six residents…

“In addition, if a decision is made to change to a three-weekly residual waste collection, a comprehensive public engagement plan will be developed to ensure that everyone is fully aware of how to make full use of their weekly recycling and composting service as well as the changes to the residual waste service.”

If the report recommendation is approved, it is expected that the changes will be implemented in incremental steps from October 2014 onwards - in the Dwyfor area of the county from October 2014, the Meirionnydd area from March 2015 and in Arfon from June 2015.

Read more about Falkirk’s three-weekly residual waste plans.