The council that cut residual waste, increased recycling and made savings
By Accounting for Energy – (3 min read)
Higher wages and cuts of £1.4 billion to central government funding in England are taking a toll on local authorities. With so many services to manage, councils are generally committed to protecting areas like social care. However, with children’s centres, libraries and road maintenance at risk, many in the waste management industry fear a halt to the addition of new recycling services such as food waste or, at worst, a return to the dirty days of the eighties with services reduced to a minimum.
However, Conwy Borough Council has shown that an ambitious approach can reap dividends. In 2016, Conwy took the radical step of reducing residual waste collections. Trials took place throughout the borough to see whether three or four-weekly collections were viable. The goal was to increase recycling rates to meet the Welsh Government target of 70% by 2025, to save on landfill tax, and to maximise on the amount and value of household waste sent for recycling, in order to reinvest into council services. The two trials achieved significant results, with the four-weekly residual waste system resulting in a saving of £390,000.
The cuts in collections will have a major effect on Conwy’s annual budgets, but the move has also boosted recycling. Recycling collected as part of the three-weekly scheme rose by 5%, with a 20% decrease in residual waste; the four-weekly scheme saw recycling increase by 14%, with residual waste falling by 31%. At a time when many councils are looking to save money by investing in energy from waste and cutting back on new recycling services, the results are particularly relevant.
Interestingly, there has been no evidence to show any negative impact to fly-tipping in the area and, contrary to the views of any potential naysayers, there have also been no increase in requests for additional bins. In short, Conwy Borough Council has not been flooded with over-flowing bins, rodents or angry residents – the trial has proven so successful that the authority’s Task and Finish Group has recommended that the four-weekly scheme be rolled out across the county, as an “opportunity to provide a sustainable long-term solution to recycle more, waste less and increase savings”. Good luck Conwy!
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