The waste management company began its contract providing waste and recycling collections for South Hams district council in Devon in April 2019 (see letsrecycle.com story). In March this year (2021), FCC Environment rolled out service changes across South Hams in a bid to improve recycling rates.
But, the contractor has been faced with challenges such as higher volumes of recyclables than expected and difficulties in recruiting drivers.
Residents were to receive a weekly recycling collection and for the first time could put glass and plastic pots, tubs and trays out for recycling. Food waste was be collected weekly in a new container.
The service was to mirror that provided by FCC Environment under a contract with West Devon borough council for more than 10 years. The recycling vehicles now in use in South Hams had been in use in West Devon since March 2018.
The service was beset by problems, including missed collections and with the vehicles being too large for some parts of the area, from the outset, according to South Hams.
“We would like to once again apologise to the affected residents for the ongoing issues with the delivery of this service”
South Hams district council’s overview and scrutiny committee held an extraordinary meeting on 10 June at which councillors slammed the service.
Mark Barnfield, head of collections at FCC Environment, said: “FCC Environment has been focusing our efforts on rectifying the issues that we have experienced in rolling out the new recycling service in South Hams.
“We would like to once again apologise to the affected residents for the ongoing issues with the delivery of this service and we understand how frustrating it has been for the residents we are struggling to reach. We are continuing our efforts to reach those who have been without a service.”
‘High volumes of materials’
FCC Environment blamed the issues on higher than anticipated volumes of materials. It said the system was designed on the basis of recycling vehicles filling up once a day and being emptied at the end of the working day.
Above: 11 June statement and apology from FCC Environment (UK) Ltd
Instead, due to the home working implications of lockdowns through 2020 and 2021 and residents saving recycling for the new system’s launch, the vehicles were filling up two to three times a day, FCC Environment said. This meant they needed to travel back to the depot and unload each time.
FCC Environment also said the increased volumes had resulted in the recycling depot filling up, making the unloading of the collection vehicles and the onward operations “much more complex”.
To address the issues, FCC Environment introduced a range of extra vehicles and recruited more LGV drivers, including from outside Devon due to “the difficulty of recruiting drivers in the South West”.
FCC Environment says it is also considering “temporary changes” to the recycling service to “overcome the very real challenges we have faced”. South Hams district council is currently reviewing this and other options.
Representing an estimated population of more than 86,00, South Hams district council had a household waste recycling rate of 54.4% in the 2019/20 financial year.
Other changes introduced by FCC Environment to South Hams’ waste services in March include treating food waste in Devon, while garden waste is now composted locally for use on farms within South Hams. Previously, mixed garden and food waste would be processed together in Oxfordshire.