District and borough councils in North Yorkshire may look to increase the charge for their garden waste collections due to changes in the way the county council issues recycling credits.
Last week, North Yorkshire county council approved plans to reduce the credits it pays to waste collection authorities (WCAs) for the amount of garden waste they recycle, due to “financial pressures” facing the authority.
This means that, subject to call-in, the council will replace recycling credits for green garden waste with a “lower value green waste incentive”.
The agreement follows a consultation which found that the proposed changes were “not welcomed” by the district and borough authorities, “and in one case identified as a retrograde step in delivery of partnership working on waste,” a report for the executive states.
The report revealed that the authority expects to pay district and borough councils some £4,658,000 in credits for 2017/18, for recycling and composting household waste.
According to the report, recycling credits have been instrumental in helping to drive up recycling performance since their introduction in the 1990s.
The principle of recycling credits was that they represented “a cost effective alternative” for the county council compared to the costs of disposal, and the ‘savings’ or avoided costs were shared with waste collection authorities. However, the council explains, that over time “the principles of sharing savings or avoided costs has been lost as the value of recycling credit now exceeds any marginal savings in disposal costs, and the payment of the recycling credits for green waste significantly outweighing the processing costs”.
This has become “exacerbated” with the relatively recent introduction of charges for the collection of green garden waste by all but one waste collection authority in North Yorkshire, the authority states.
Under the system, which was amended by the government in 2006 to reflect the introduction of other legislative drivers to boost recycling and reuse, waste disposal authorities (WDAs) pay the credits to waste collection authorities (WCAs) – and third parties – when they divert waste from landfill for recycling or reuse.
The 2006 changes also gave councils the option to introduce alternative arrangements to solely using the statutory recycling credits system.
Similar measures have been taken in the past by local authorities. For example, in 2014, Leicestershire county council stopped issuing credits for recycling green waste (see letsrecycle.com story).
North Yorkshire council found the typical cost of processing garden waste into compost currently incurred by the WCAs “is considerably less than the value of the recycling credit paid by NYCC”. And, the authority found that if it were to procure the processing of green waste collected by the WCAs itself, the likely average cost to NYCC in 2017/18 would have been about £23 per tonne, compared to a recycling credit value of £50.01 per tonne.
The council expects to save £876,000 per annum from approving the changes to reduce payment of recycling credits.
However, following a consultation, the majority of respondents suggested the proposed changes would have “significant financial impacts” for WCAs, the council says.
Harrogate borough council indicated that an increase of between £8-10 per customer will be necessary and Craven district advised that their level of increase will be between £3-4.50 per customer.
Other concerns were raised by Craven council about reduction in residents using the service, leading to an increased financial burden, and a reduction in recycling rates.
In regards to recycling performance, David Bowe, corporate director, business and environmental services at the council said: “Some responses to our consultation have suggested that recycling rates could reduce as a consequence of an increase in costs to residents. However, not all waste collection authorities propose to increase charges and the level of increase for those that will is small compared to existing charges.
“The experience within North Yorkshire from when charges were introduced is that tonnages of green waste collected do reduce although much of this reduction is lost from the system suggesting it helps to encourage home composting which is a better environmental and financial outcome for all.”
When contacted by letsrecycle.com, Lee Marshall, chief executive of local authority association –LARAC – said he would be “surprised” if other county councils were not looking into the way they issue recycling credits.
He acknowledged that credits are a “large area of budgets” for county councils, but equally a “large source of budgets as an income” for district and borough councils.
However, taking away recycling credits for green waste “could impact recycling rates,” he explained.
According to Mr Marshall, county councils do not have to pay recycling credits if they tell the district and boroughs where to take their collected green waste and incur the costs involved.