East Devon council have recently been trialing collecting general (residual) waste bins once every 3 weeks in two areas the Colony in Exmouth and Feniton covering around 1,800 households. Residents of the trial areas were given plenty of notice (from June 2015) prior to the start of the trial in September 2015 and district council officers also put on events in public areas around the two trial areas to help educate residents on how to reduce, re-use and recycle their waste. Letters and leaflets were distributed to households in the trial areas and there was also a comprehensive media campaign.
The council continued to provide recycling collections on a weekly basis and also increased food waste recycling collections from fortnightly to weekly. Residents involved in the trial were also able to recycle a wider range of materials such as cardboard egg boxes and toilet paper tubes as well as mixed plastics pots, tubs and trays which were previously not accepted in the co-mingled stream. Each household also received an additional 70 litre re-usable sack to increase the volume of recycling they could put out each week.
The trial has been hailed as a “great success” by councilors, as recycling rates have improved dramatically alongside a marked reduction in waste being sent to landfill. Additionally, there has been no increase in fly-tipping.
The results of the trial showed an increase in dry recycling rates from 39% to 56%, and a decrease in residual waste by 19%. Food waste collections saw a significant increase, however analysis of the residual waste stream collected from the trial areas indicated that there was still a large proportion that consisted of food.
As a result of the success of the trial, the council have ordered a fleet of new specialised dry recycling collection vehicles, to make it easier for operators to sort and store kerbside collected recyclates.
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.”
Several councils have already implemented three weekly residual waste collections including Falkirk, Bury and Gwynedd Councils. Falkirk has just approved plans to move to 4 weekly collections.
The reduced amount of waste going to landfill / incineration and being kept in the resource cycle means greater cost savings for councils through reduced landfill tax and increased revenues from sales of recyclates that are recovered by the council’s MRFs.