Not letting recycling innovation go to waste

In the third of our Top 10 series, in the build up to RWM, Government Business analyses local authority green policy, and the examples of leading recycling management and efficient, effective waste management policies across the UK

In the build up to the RWM show, which runs from 12-14 September 2017, Government Business investigates the top 10 local authorities who deliver environmentally sound and profitable solutions in their regions. Encompassing recycling, machinery and equipment, energy from waste and waste transport logistics, the Top 10 highlights excellence in green policy, savvy recycling management and effective waste management policies.

At the end of January 2017, figures released by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics body, revealed that the UK was ranked tied tenth among the top-ranked municipal waste recyclers in Europe during 2015. When considered collectively, EU member states recycled 45.2 per cent of their municipal waste on average, with the UK’s combined recycling and composting rate standing at 43.5 per cent in 2015, down from 43.7 per cent a year earlier. However, the data also highlighted the amount of waste generated per person across Europe, with the UK seeing a per person increase from 482kg in 2014 to 485kg in 2015.

This correlation complimented the statistics released by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) at the end of December 2016. The government data showed that the rate of household recycling had fallen to 44.3 per cent, from 44.9 per cent in 2015. In light of the figures, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) called for a fundamental review of the funding for council waste services and for concepts such as Extended Producer Responsibility and Direct Charging to be explored and implemented.

1 - South Oxfordshire District Council
The December 2016 Defra figures, mentioned above, highlighted that South Oxfordshire District Council had maintained its lead as England’s best recycling council for the third year in a row. The council had a recycling, reuse and composting rate of 66.6 per cent for 2015-16, which was significantly higher than the UK average. Earlier in 2016, South Oxfordshire District Council was recorded as recycling 67.3 per cent of household waste and was highlighted as an exemplar for the 73 councils that had met or exceeded 2020 recycling rates.

Cllr Tony Harbour, cabinet member for waste at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We’re extremely pleased to be top of the tables again and we’re very grateful for the hard work of our residents – we took a difficult decision this year to stop people using non-clear sacks in their bins to prevent contamination. Most of our residents have already adapted brilliantly though, which should help us stay near the top for another year.”

2 - West Sussex County Council
The West Sussex Waste Partnership, led by West Sussex County Council, was awarded the ‘Best Local Authority Recycling Initiative’ at the 2017 Awards for Excellence in Recycling and Waste Management for a trial project thats aw more than three tonnes of extra recycling is being collected every fortnight from communal housing in the region.

Designed to improve both practical obstacles and residents’ attitudes towards recycling, the project resulted in 94 per cent of resident’s waste being recycled correctly. It is predicted that the reduction in landfill costs will save £14,000 every year, leading to calls for the project to be rolled-out nationally.

Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for Environment, said: “It is a fantastic achievement and great testament to the Waste Management team for overseeing the project and our district and borough partners for carrying it out to a high standard worthy of national recognition. This award signifies the important work that has been done to not only better, but create a lasting recycling legacy in multiple occupancy properties which are notoriously difficult to improve.”

3 - Vale of White Horse District Council
While South Oxfordshire District Council was named the best recycler in DEFRA’s annual recycling league tables for 2015/16 for a third year in a row, neighbouring Vale of White Horse District Council dropped from second last year to fourth place in the latest rankings.

In November 2016, the council introduced a new policy to not empty recycling bins containing non-clear sacks, due to an increase in the amount of bins contaminated with non-recyclable materials. Since the new policy was introduced, no lorry loads of recycling have so far been rejected due to contamination. This has been complimented by a new, council-run kerbside recycling service of textiles and small electrical items.

Vale of White Horse District Council has also just jointly invested £6.5 million, alongside South Oxfordshire District Council, in a brand new fleet of waste and recycling trucks, providing new and improved collections to households across southern Oxfordshire.

Charlotte Dickson, cabinet member for waste, said: “I’m very happy to hear that our residents are still among the best in the country. We’ve already made great headway to tackle the contamination problem, so when we combine that with our successful kerbside textiles and electricals recycling collections, we’re confident we’ll be back to challenging our neighbours in South Oxfordshire for the number one spot next year.”

4 - Surrey Heath Borough Council
In April 2017, Surrey Heath Borough Council, alongside Elmbridge, Woking and Mole Valley councils, formed a new new organisation to deliver a joined-up waste service across the region. The Joint Waste Solutions service follows Surrey County Council’s plans to integrate waste services and oversee all collections and disposal of waste.

In the 2015/16 overall performance data, derived from WasteDataFlow, Surrey Heath Borough Council recorded 62.1 per cent of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting, ranking five in the local authority league table - a position it also holds in our Top 10 list. The previous year, the council ranked fourth nationally by Defra for its 63.3 per cent rate of household waste sent for recycling, composting and reuse.

As part of a wider perspective, Surrey County Council has recently launched a consultation on proposals to save up to £2 million-a-year from community recycling centres.

5 - Newcastle City Council
In March this year, Newcastle City Council announced the formation of the Newcastle Waste Commission, a team of seven waste management experts tasked with tackling the city’s ‘mountain of waste’. It is believed to be the first time that a major city has set up a commission to take a root and branch look at all aspects of waste, from recycling to refuse, waste to energy and packaging.

Newcastle produces approximately 142,000 tonnes of waste each year, with Nick Kemp, the council’s waste strategy leader, arguing that it is simply not sustainable to continue producing more and more waste and dumping it into landfill sites across the country. Instead, the council is changing its perspective. It wants to stop looking at waste as a problem and instead view it as an asset through innovative new ways of recycling, reusing and turning waste into energy.

Although the recommendations of the commission will be for Newcastle, it is expected they will be applicable to other cities across the UK and even influence government policy. The commission is due to release its recommendations following its final meeting in September 2017.

6 - South Northamptonshire Council
Recording a 59 percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting for 2015/16, South Northamptonshire Council has recently joined the 'MetalMatters' recycling campaign to raise awareness of the importance of metal packaging recycling, to increase the amount collected from households and reduce the costs for dealing with household waste.

Back in February, the council stated that its recycling rate had increased to just over 60 per cent so far for 2016/17, with the improvement being driven by the 281 tonnes of food waste collected during January 2017, a 47 tonne increase on the same month in 2016. The council also collected 960 tonnes of recycling from the blue bins this January, compared to 918 tonnes during January 2016.

Dermot Bambridge, the council’s portfolio holder for environmental services said: "I'd like to thank residents for the enthusiasm they have shown in support of our goals to drive down costs and reduce the district's environmental impact. Because residents are careful when recycling, the number of items that shouldn't be there is very low. But the evidence shows that it is possible to recycle or compost up to 80 per cent of waste from the average home and we will seek to continually improve our collection rate."

7 - The City of Edinburgh Council
The City of Edinburgh Council has recently undertaken a changes garden waste collection to provide a more consistent service, collecting bins once every three weeks all year round, instead of every two weeks in the summer and four weeks in the winter.

The latest Landfill and Recycling report to the council’s Transport and Environment Committee in March 2017 highlighted an increase of 1,239 tonnes in recycling citywide on the previous year, while the amount of unrecycled waste has dropped by 2.6 per cent. This has been due to the introduction of new kerbside dry mixed and glass recycling collections to more than 140,000 households across the city, while the introduction of additional facilities for communal packaging bins serving flats and tenements has encouraged a 39 per cent increase in the waste recycled for the year to March.

More recently in April, Lesley Hinds, Transport and Environment Convener, announced the opening of a a £9 million depot for its waste collection and street cleansing operations at Seafield, which will increase efficiency by providing a single base for waste collection and street cleansing services in the east of the city. A similar site in the north west of Edinburgh is also under development.

Hinds said: “As a council we are 100 per cent committed to increasing the amount of waste recycled in Edinburgh. Over recent years we have implemented several changes to make recycling easier for residents, and these are clearly having a positive impact.

“While maintaining this focus on recycling, we recognise that improvements need to be made across the service, and I’m pleased to see that our ongoing efforts are making a difference. That said, there is no room for complacency, and we will continue to direct resources into completing the outstanding actions in our Waste and Cleansing Improvement Plan to achieve a better service for everyone.”

8 - Bolton Council
Bolton Council was shortlisted for the ‘Environment’ category at this year’s Local Government Chronicle Awards 2017 for its work in saving more than £2 million by introducing slim bins. The council replaced all 240 litre bins with 140 litre grey bins between June and November last year to encourage recycling, reduce grey bin waste collected and save £1.25 million a year in waste disposal costs – a figure which the council is already exceeding.

Between April and December 2016, the council collected 33,310 tonnes of recyclable waste, an increase of 2,956 tonnes on the same period the previous year. The recycling rate for this period rose to almost 45 per cent, compared to 41 per cent for the same period in 2015.

Nick Peel, executive cabinet member for Environmental Services, said: “Big thanks must go to our residents – without their support and hard work in recycling and adapting to the changes, we would haven’t been able to achieve what we have done and already save more than £2 million. I must also congratulate our teams at the council who have worked really hard to communicate the slim bin rollout plan so residents were as best prepared as possible. They worked with community groups, schools and went to talk to residents and the end result has been a smooth implementation and significant savings, which has now been recognised nationally. We are delighted.”

9 - Stratford-on-Avon District Council
Figures released show that Stratford-on-Avon District Council is still in the top ten for the third year in succession, rising three places in the ratings to seventh with a recycling rate of 60.4 per cent for last year.

Mike Brain, Community and Technical Services Portfolio, says: “We've slightly bettered last year's recycling rate which has lifted our position in the recycling league table as other councils have seen their rates reduce. It's thanks to our residents that we've been able to achieve this result with their continued commitment and support for recycling. The service we provide is designed to make recycling easy and our residents have responded to that by ensuring they recycle as much as possible and by limiting the amount of other waste that is produced for landfill.

“It is important that residents continue to recycle and one of the reasons why we are performing so high is because more residents are regularly putting food in the green bin and the weekly collection of electric/electronic goods, textiles and batteries is continuing to be very popular. Residents can see that their efforts and diligence continues to pay off."

10 - Bristol City Council
Britain’s Real Green and Pleasant Land, compiled by property company Goodmove, analysed 10 different region’s percentage of green space and found that Bristol is the greenest city in the UK. The June report highlighted the city’s 44 per cent recycling rate as one of the reasons why it tops the list.

Bristol Waste Company runs the city's household waste recycling centres and has recently launched a commercial waste service, offering local businesses tailored, cost effective recycling and waste solutions. Throughout the 17 million scheduled collections made each year, the group collects 140,000 tonnes of waste and recycling per annum, of which 53,000 tonnes is sent for composting or recycling. Previously, waste collection and waste disposal were procured separately.

Mayor Marvin Rees said: “One of my key promises to the city has been to launch a Clean Streets Campaign. We need a city wide strategy to tackling problems with littering and fly tipping, and to increase recycling rates. We must work closely with community organisations and schools to promote behaviour change.

“We have been given a real opportunity to make a difference to Bristol’s streets, and after considering all the facts, we believe that Bristol Waste Company offer us the best chance to achieve our ambitious goals for the city. There is a lot of work to be done, but we hope that a ten year contract will allow us the stability to make serious progress towards tidying up our streets.”

Not letting recycling innovation go to waste

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