The deputy leader of Wales’ top performing council for recycling in 2016/17– Ceredigion – has claimed that the council’s success has been in part down to the use of a commingled recycling system.
Annual figures published by the Welsh Government earlier this month showed Ceredigion had a recycling rate for municipal waste of 70.1% for 2016/17, compared with the average of 63.8% recorded for all local authorities in Wales (see letsrecycle.com story).
Despite the increase in recycling from the authority’s previous annual figure of 68.1%, Ceredigion plans to change its collection service to increase recycling and make savings.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com Ceredigion’s deputy leader, Councillor Ray Quant, said that many councils continue to use the commingled method and “seem to be the best performing.”
Councillor Quant’s assertion comes despite the Welsh Government’s preference for councils to use separate collection systems.
In 2016, a report commissioned by WRAP Cymru claimed collecting material separately offers the greatest annual savings, with post collection sorting costs much lower and material income greater than for other collection methods (see letsrecycle.com story).
Councillor Quant said: “Councils using commingled are still holding themselves very well. But in the future, who knows, we might be pushed down because they could decide we are only going to give grants to kerbside [separate] systems.”
Currently, the council’s service includes weekly collections for food waste and a clear recycling bag for clean and dry recyclable materials including, paper, plastic and cans. Residual waste and garden waste are collected fortnightly. Collections are carried out by an in-house team.
As part of the new service, weekly collections for the food waste container and clear recycling bag will continue. Residual waste collections will move to three-weekly, along with a new separate collection for glass. The council also plans to introduce a fortnightly collection for absorbent hygiene products (AHP), such as nappies.
The council is also trialling a pilot scheme for fortnightly glass collections in part of the county, which will replace a bring banks system. The revised service is likely to come into effect in 2018/19.
In line with potential ambitions to move to 80% recycling by 2035, the Councillor said the Ceredigion is seeking to grow its recycling rate in line with this.
In regards to the change of service, Councillor Quant said Wales has been considered by some to be the third best country in the World for recycling, and “Lesley Griffiths wants to make us to be the best,” he added.
A second reason for the service change was the need for investment in fleet, Councillor Quant explained.
In terms of being the highest performing Welsh council, Councillor Quant said: “We had that accolade about four or five years ago. We do get overtaken and then we seem to bounce back again.
“Gwynedd are very good as well and RCT (Rhondda Cynon Taf) are again,” he added.
The deputy leader attributed the council’s recycling success to its work on food waste. “Over the last eight or nine years we have been encouraging households to separate food waste from the black waste bin,” Councillor Quant said.
However, the deputy leader suggested there was still work to do on the black bag front.
“We suspect there is still a lot going into the black bag. The results of a survey we carried out were quite surprising!” Councillor Quant said 5-6% of food waste was still found in the refuse bin, along with some cans, glass and garden waste.
In terms of end destinations of waste, food waste collected by the council goes to Agrivert’s £14m anaerobic digestion plant at Stormy Down (see letsrecycle.com story).
Residual waste is exported to Sweden to be burnt in energy from waste plants and recycling goes with Carmarthenshire council to waste disposal company CWM.
Councillor Quant explained a current problem being looked at by the council is seagulls ripping open the black rubbish bag to get to the food waste inside.
“Our next drive is getting the recycling materials out of those black bags and into the right receptacles.”
In terms of AHP, Councillor Quant said the council planned to introduce the service due to the change in frequency of residual waste collections. He explained that currently this material is disposed of in the black bin and there were concerns about these products remaining in bin for three weeks.
“Everybody has agreed this is the way we’re going to go in Ceredigion,” Councillor Quant said.
However, it is yet to be decided where the collected AHP will go for disposal. Councillor Quant said: “It’s something for us to sort out. We are investigating to see which companies are doing that and where we can tie in.”