BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Recycling fears push councils to their limits
6:03pm Tuesday 6th May 2014 in News
LOCAL authorities across Gwent are looking at very different ways of reducing their landfill waste, including the potential for monthly bin collections, as JOHN PHILLIPS reports.
PLANS to reduce rubbish collections to just once a month in parts of Gwent have raised a few eyebrows in the last few weeks.
The days when binmen came to pick up your rubbish the same day each week could soon be over as the Welsh Government puts pressure on council chiefs to increase recycling.
Faced with huge non-compliance fines that could reach hundreds of thousands of pounds, local authorities are having to devise new ways to meet ever increasing recycling targets.
By the end of the next financial year for instance, councils in Wales will have to show they recycle nearly six in 10 waste items.
Many households are taking steps to promote the environment of course, but at the same time there is no actual incentive for people to recycle.
Earlier this year, Torfaen council bosses unveiled drastic proposals to meet the Government’s recycling targets and avoid hefty fines.
By cutting household waste collections from twice to just once a month, they argue that people will be encouraged to take part in recycling initiatives. Instead of putting every type of waste in their bin, they will get used to separating their rubbish, ready for specific collections for items such as garden waste, cardboard, plastics and glass.
Last week, Torfaen council pointed out that it currently met the 52 per cent recycling target set by the Welsh Government.
But the local authority stressed it could face fines of £100,000 for every per cent falling below these targets.
If the borough does not manage to reach the forthcoming 58 per cent target for 15/16, it could be left with a £600,000 fine.
As the local authority prepared to unveil its consultation, Councillor John Cunningham, the executive member for neighbourhood services, said: “Although we have introduced collections for green waste, food and cardboard, recycling rates have only risen by around nine per cent in the last five years. This is not enough.”
The local authority said it was continuing to prepare for a public consultation on the issue with three distinct options: maintaining a fortnightly collection with a smaller black wheelie bin, a fortnightly collection of two refuse bags per household, or moving to a monthly collection using the existing 240L black wheelie bins.
One resident from Abersychan, Elizabeth Brown, argued households could not cope with the reduced service and labelled the proposals “ridiculous”, while Ian Gilbert, from Pontypool, indicated it could lead to an increase in fly-tipping.
Torfaen council also stressed it was not alone among Welsh local authorities reviewing their residual waste policies in order to meet the next statutory targets.
It argued, for instance, that Monmouthshire had made significant headway in meeting these benchmarks by restricting waste collections. That authority is now seen as first in Wales for recycling.
Monmouthshire council collects rubbish fortnightly with restrictions of just two bags per household.
Although their recycling figures remain provisional, they are encouraging:
Monmouthshire recycled 56 per cent of its waste in 12/13 and provisional statistics for 13/14 indicate this had increased to 63 or 64 per cent, a jump of nearly 10 percent in the space of a year.
A Monmouthshire council spokesman said: “Our service is a comprehensive one and is one of the highest recycling performers in Wales, indeed the UK.
“Our residents have been fantastic in their adoption of the service and we can only look to continue to promote recycling.”
Over in Caerphilly, residual waste has been collected fortnightly since 2009 and the statistics also show a trend in the right direction.
The council said it managed to recycle 57 per cent in 12/13 and 58 per cent of its waste for the first three quarters of 13/14 – above the current 52 per cent benchmark.
Nonetheless, the local authority indicated these targets set by the Welsh Government could become increasingly difficult to meet, bearing in mind it wants 70 per cent of items recycled by 2025.
A Caerphilly spokeswoman said: “We have seen a steady increase in recycling over the past decade with the most significant increases since we changed to a fortnightly residual waste collections service in 2009.
“Over the past five years we have been successful in staying ahead of the Welsh Government’s Statutory Recycling Targets – SRTs – but as these ambitious targets increase over time, the achievement of targets may become increasingly challenging without a further increase in recycling rates, participation or a reduction in SRTs.”
Newport council also reported it had felt the pressure in a street scene report from last month.
The report author stated: “Councils have challenging recycling and or composting targets and failure may result in substantial fines.”
The report stated that historically, Newport City Council had been seen as a beacon authority in the way in which it collects its recycling and manages its services.
However, latest statistics show that Newport achieved a 50.03 per cent recycling and composting rate at the end of 2012, narrowly missing the Government target of 52 per cent.
Blaenau Gwent also narrowly failed to reach the benchmark with 51.2 per cent of items recycled in 12/13.
Both local authorities provide weekly kerbside collections for food waste.
A Blaenau Gwent council spokeswoman said on Thursday: “Blaenau Gwent Council remains committed to working to raise recycling rates in the county borough.
“We would like to thank all our residents who make the effort to recycle and for helping us to raise our rates over the past few years, as well as helping the environment.
“Despite having to make recent changes to bulky waste and green waste collections in light of challenging budgets, we hope our communities will continue to work with us to continue the recycling momentum, in order that we can meet the targets and avoid hefty fines.”
Cllr Ken Critchley, Newport council cabinet member for infrastructure, added: “Newport City Council and partners Wastesavers continue to provide a high-quality recycling system for the people of Newport, which is one of the most cost-effective waste management services in Wales.
“We are working hard to achieve tough Welsh Government targets and urge all residents to recycle as much as possible.
“We are constantly looking at more efficient ways of dealing with waste and aim to work with residents to make services work while reducing the waste sent to landfill.”
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