London’s highest performing borough for recycling – Bexley – plans to reduce the cost of its waste service by £450,000 per-year by moving from recycling boxes to wheeled bins, and reducing collection frequency.
This is despite the council’s decision to rule out switching to a three-weekly service for residual waste, after a local consultation found that people were “strongly opposed” to the service option.
The outer London borough has been the top performer in the capital for around 14 years, achieving a 52.1% recycling rate in 2017.
As part of the recommended changes, the council plans to switch from three recycling boxes to two wheeled bins for recycling, which it says “most residents say they would prefer”. And, recycling collections would be reduced to alternate-week collections instead of weekly.
The decision is subject to approval by the full council meeting on 6 March. If agreed the changes will be introduced from this summer.
Currently, the council collects food waste separately in a brown box on a weekly basis. Weekly collections are also provided for paper and cardboard (green box), plastic packaging, cartons and cans (maroon box) and glass bottles and jars (black box). Residual waste is collected fortnightly in a green bin.
Veolia holds the contract for all material streams except paper and card, which is handled by Viridor. However, the council is due to retender the material stream contract, with the tender out on 1 March.
If proposals are confirmed, households will receive two wheeled bins to replace the three box system for recycling: a blue-lidded wheelie bin for paper/cardboard recycling and a white-lidded wheelie bin for mixed recycling. They will be collected fortnightly on alternate weeks.
Food waste will continue to be collected on a weekly basis. Residual waste (green bin) collections will continue to be collected fortnightly.
According to the council, it has been faced with the need to make “significant savings” to balance its budgets. As well as saving money, the change should lead to an increase in the amount of waste that people recycle, the council said, “something which many people who responded to the survey supported”.
Commenting on the recommended changes, Councillor Peter Craske, cabinet member for places said: “I want to thank local people for their feedback and for helping us to shape the service for the next decade. We’ve been the highest recyclers in London for 14 years and this has only been possible thanks to the support of local people. We’ve considered their feedback carefully and feel what we are proposing is financially sustainable, gives people the wheelie bins they want and an increase in the amount of waste we are recycling.
“It’s important to remember that our success at recycling saves Bexley’s Council taxpayers around £3.6m a year, compared to the alternative costs of collection and incineration. The changes we’re recommending will also reduce the cost of the service by £450,000 a year. This will help to support other important local services.”
Below: Cllr Peter Craske explains the reasons for the service changes
The cabinet also recommended that the council’s current street services contract with Serco is extended by 18 months. Switching to another contractor would make it “difficult to make the services changes that are proposed”.
Serco has been providing waste and recycling collections for the London borough of Bexley since 2009. At the time of award, the contract was reported to be worth up to £160 million (see letsrecycle.com story).
If the proposals are approved by the council on 6 March, further information will be sent to all households affected. This will include information about how services will change and the invitation to choose which of three sizes of wheelie bins each household would prefer (140, 180 or 240 litre).
The council is currently undertaking a “mini tender exercise” for procurement of the new bins.
Bexley has almost 100,000 households. This includes flatted properties which do not have room for wheeled bins so will not be affected by the service change.