East Devon council will continue its trial of three-weekly residual waste collections in several wards as it gears up to announce the preferred bidder for a new seven-year waste and recycling services contract next month.
A report to the council’s cabinet last week (January 6) hailed the “great success” of the trial involving 1,800 households in the Colony in Exmouth and Feniton, where refuse collections have been reduced from fortnightly to every three weeks, with recyclables collected every week.
Launched in September 2015, the trial has also seen weekly food waste collections continue, while householders have been able to recycle a wider range of materials and been given an increase in capacity of containers for commingled recyclables (see letsrecycle.com story).
Residents involved in the trial can add cardboard egg boxes and toilet paper tubes as well as mixed plastics pots, tubs and trays, to their commingled green box collections – alongside other recyclable materials including paper, plastic bottles and metal cans which had already been accepted.
In the trial areas, there has been a rise in the overall average kerbside recycling from 39% to 56%, alongside a 19% reduction in waste sent for disposal, the council claims.
According to the council, the result of the trial show that there is “future scope” for a possible reduction in waste collection frequency to every four weeks in order to “further improve our recycling rate”.
The council launched the trial with the aim of feeding the findings into its considerations for a new waste and recycling services contract, for which it is expected to announce a preferred bidder in February after an almost year-long procurement process, which began in March 2015.
There are now thought to be only a small number of potential bidders left in the running, which are likely to include current contractors Suez, as well as, potentially, Cory Environmental – which has several sites nearby in Cornwall – and FCC Environment.
The seven-year deal includes weekly dry recycling and weekly food waste collections, as well as residual waste collections either every two, three or four weeks “as long as that provides substantial savings accompanied by an improved recycling collection”, according to the council.
The contract also includes bulky waste and clinical waste collections, servicing of the district’s bring sites and the storage and take-back of waste and recycling containers. This would commence when Suez’s current deal expires in June 2016 with the option for this to extend to ten years in total.
East Devon cabinet members welcomed the success so far of the Exmouth and Feniton recycling trial at a meeting last week (January 6) and resolved to take into consideration the findings when evaluating final bids for a new waste and recycling contract scheduled to start this coming summer.
Cabinet members also agreed to continue the trial, which has no set end-date, and to maintain its monitoring and evaluation process, while also seeking a detailed cost assessment of any proposed change in service.
According to the council, residents in the trial areas have been sending more material for recycling and less for disposal since the trial began, while there have additionally been no increases in fly tipping.
It estimates that if the trial service is continued, this could see average recycling rates in the two areas reach almost 60%.
The council also reported “huge” increases in food waste recycling during the trial, but analysis suggests a large amount of refuse still consists of food.
The report concludes: “We believe the trial has demonstrated a very compelling and positive argument for moving to an improved recycling collection service with three weekly residual waste collections. It also shows through waste analysis that there is future scope for exploring further improvements in recycling, recycling education and the possibility of reducing residual collections to four weekly to further improve our recycling rate.”
Critics of reduced frequency waste collection systems have questioned whether this method leads to higher dry recycling contamination rates, and East Devon council has not provided any details of the quality of recyclable material produced during the trial.
However, the council has strongly indicated that it would favour a new contract through which household material is sorted at the kerbside from a new contractor, having arranged a demonstration of a specialist kerbside-sort vehicle during the trial.
The council report states: “The results of this were positive and this is the sort of vehicle we would envisage using if we go forward with this improved recycling service.”
It adds: “The current procurement exercise will show us the full cost of any different collection methods ahead of making a final decision, but we are projecting that costs for this service option will be lower than if we operate the service with a fortnightly residual collection at the same time as improving the recycling collection.”