Agenda item

Potential Changes to Waste and Recycling Collections

A report from the Executive Director – Place is attached. (Report No.175, agenda part two also refers). (Key decision – reference number 4810)

(Report No.159)

(7.20 – 7.30 pm)


Councillor Guney Dogan (Cabinet Member for Environment) introduced the report of the Executive Director – Place (No.159) proposing that the Council adopts a revised waste and recycling collection system for kerbside properties with a wheeled bin.




1.            That Report No.175 also referred as detailed in Minute No.18 below.


2.            The proposal for a revised waste and recycling collection system for kerbside properties with a wheeled bin as set out in full in the report and summarised in section 1. The financial context and implications of the proposals were explained within the Council’s overall budget pressures and funding constraints, summarised in section 3 of the report.


3.            That the Council currently spent approximately £15.1m on collecting, treating and disposing and waste and recycling across the Borough. Waste disposal costs were likely to significantly increase. Additionally, the former Government grant of £2.4 million to retain weekly collections for waste and recycling had now ceased (paragraph 3.7 of the report referred).


4.            That the Council had been reviewing various areas across the organisation to try to meet the current and future budget gap. The work which had been undertaken in reviewing the waste and recycling collections was set out in detail in the report and considered by Members.


5.            That the primary driver to implement the changes was financial savings, and then conformity with the London Mayor’s Environment Strategy and, to consider the responses to the consultation which had been undertaken. Financial savings for Option 7 were significantly higher when compared to any other proposal or current collection system; it conformed with the London Mayor’s Environment Strategy; and, had a projected increase in recycling to 49%. It had been the least preferred option amongst the respondents to the consultation. Retaining the current system had been the preferred option of the people that responded.


6.            In summary the proposal was to:


·         Collect refuse every fortnight rather than weekly (collections from the property would be made on the alternative week to collections for dry recycling)

·         Collect dry recycling every fortnight rather than weekly (collections from the property to be made on the alternative week to collections for refuse)

·         Provide a new service of a weekly separate food waste collection

·         Introduce a £65 per year charge to collect garden waste from households that opt into the scheme (additional bins per property to be charged at £65 per year)

·         Recruitment of 2 additional Recycling Officers

·         Recruitment of 2 additional Enforcement Officers

·         Invest £500k in Street Cleansing Services


7.            That the total net savings over the 5-year business plan would be £7.5m from Waste Services and £2.2m of re-investment into Street Cleansing Services over the same period.


8.            The context within which this proposal should be considered is that of the Council’s budget and financial constraints. This was a difficult time for local government and it was essential to ensure that the Council’s decision-making was responsible and financially resilient in going forward; and, protected the most vulnerable residents who depended on the Council’s service provision.


9.            A detailed discussion followed and a number of questions raised by Members and responded to by officers present. A summary of the issues discussed is set out below:


·         With regard to the consultation it was noted that a significant number of responses had been received with a high level of social media interest also. Residents had expressed concern that it appeared that some of the options that had been consulted on were undeliverable financially as well as being non-compliant with the Mayor’s Environment Strategy and, had therefore questioned their inclusion in the consultation. The majority of respondents had wanted to retain the current service provision. (Councillor Anderson)


In response, Officers explained the reasons for the 7 consulted upon options, the approach that had been recommended, and the legal advice received. Counsel had advised that the current service had to be included as an option. Whilst a number of options were non-compliant with the Mayor’s Strategy, they were still “technically” financially and operationally deliverable as set out in the background documents, so the decision had been taken to include them. It was a Member decision as to whether the chosen option complied with the Mayor of London’s Strategy and met financial expectations or, necessitated cuts elsewhere in the Council’s overall budget. The rationale for the 7 options was provided.


·         It was stated that a consistent message from residents was that they felt that they had been misled by the consultation and that we should have been clearer from the outset that the decision was based on financial issues and not have included options in the consultation that were therefore undeliverable. (Councillor Anderson).


In response, the consultation documents were absolutely clear from the outset in stating the criteria for developing the recommended proposal, financial savings achievable, conformity with the Environment Strategy and to consider the responses received from the consultation. The savings that the Council was required to find in 2019/20 were highlighted and, the impact on other services if savings within waste services were not realised. The Council had to assess its priorities and consider all options in the light of continuing Government funding reductions. The decision on this service may impact on other areas of the Council’s budget.


Officers emphasised the importance of considering the feedback from residents through the consultation process. For example, the introduction of a weekly food waste collection (a new service) would address several of the concerns which had been raised.


·         Public health assurances were sought and, the anxiety expressed by residents recognised. The addition of 2 recycling officers was welcomed. The need to encourage and include positive sustainable issues within the context of waste services noted, including awareness raising on how to minimise waste. The capacity of the bins to accommodate the waste of larger families was highlighted. (Councillor Brett)


In response, Officers stated that there are always valuable lessons to be learned from any consultation processes and these would be taken on board in moving forward. Assurances were given that appropriate support would be provided to residents to encourage compliance and address any difficulties being experienced by individuals. The proposed investment in street cleansing and the appointment of additional recycling officers was reiterated. The new service was projected to increase the recycling rates to 49%, as explained in detail in the report. This would support sustainability improvements.


·         It was reiterated that some of the options did not meet the London Mayor’s Environment Strategy and therefore the possibility of being able to implement them was questioned as it would leave the Council open to challenge. (Councillor Georgiou).


In response officers confirmed that they could be implemented if that was the Members’ decision, the Environment Strategy was not legally binding whilst recognising that the Council could be challenged on its decision by the Mayor.


·         Table 9 of the report was highlighted on the consultation results – “You said, we will” and assurances sought on the work that had been undertaken to mitigate any risks. The proposals relating to communication were also highlighted. (Councillor Georgiou)


In response, assurances were provided of the extensive work which had been undertaken with industry experts, as set out in the report, and the high level of confidence that the projections would be achieved. Members had been fully briefed on all aspects of the proposals. The Cabinet Member for Environment, Cabinet Member for Finance and Procurement and the Section 151 Officer had also received a detailed briefing and run through of the complex and sophisticated modelling process to satisfy themselves that the figures were both robust and achievable.


·         Clarification was sought on the size of the bin for the weekly food waste (Councillor Keazor) and the provision and use of bin liners. The report indicated they would be provided free of charge in the first year. The implication was that bin liners might have to the paid for in subsequent years, which could deter use of the food waste bins. (Councillor Anderson)


In response, officers reiterated the move towards waste minimisation was essential to achieve a reduction in the amount of household waste produced by all households. The arrangements to be put in place regarding the weekly food waste collection were clarified. The free provision of bin liners would be reviewed after one year of operation. Residents would be supported as far as possible to encourage participation of separating food waste from general waste streams.


·         The proposed option projected an increase in recycling rates. It therefore made sense to reduce the frequency of the black bin collections, but the move to fortnightly blue bin collections would surely be detrimental to the projected increase in recycling rates? Reference was made to Bexley, which has the highest recycling rate in London, but has weekly dry recycling collections. Also, if the blue and black bins are collected on alternate weeks, how will residents be incentivised not to place recycling in their black bins? (Councillor Anderson)


In response, it was explained that bigger recycling blue bins would be provided if required and that we would collect as much recycling materials as any household presented on for collection, additionally, increased capacity was being given to residents in the form of a new food waste container which will be collected on a weekly basis. Current experience indicates that the bins will have sufficient capacity on a fortnightly format. These measures would move waste out of the black bin creating capacity to be collected less frequently/fortnightly. The current size of the black bin would be retained to encourage waste minimisation. Therefore, the access to greater capacity availability for householders will be the blue dry recycling bin (plus any additional recycling presented will be collected and incentivise compliance) and the additional food waste (weekly) container. This has been modelled based on industry experience and tried and tested practices across the country. It was acknowledged that there would be some non - compliance but the recycling and enforcement officers would support and encourage the correct use of the bins. It was important to effectively communicate with residents on how to reduce waste. A composition analysis of the rubbish in black bins had shown 37% food waste so a change in behaviour would be necessary in order to effectively use the weekly food waste collection service. Other authorities with fortnightly dry recycling collections are achieving similar recycling performance to that of Bexley, namely Ealing.


·         It was noted that residents were the “victims of unnecessary packaging” and that the burden of such packaging should be on the producers rather than individual residents. It was also asked if the Council could introduce mitigation measures that did not require residents to use cars to drive rubbish to the recycling centre or parks. (Councillor Barry)


In response it was stated that there was a national drive to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging, and Enfield as part of London Councils was lobbying the Government on this issue and working on national policies such as Extended Producer Responsibilities. Efforts would continue to seek sustainable improvements and increasing recycling.


It was noted that there would continue to be challenges to face. A range of initiatives would be considered and developed for example, the promotion of the use of compost bins.


·         Equalities issues were raised, for example the effect that the changes in service provision could have on older people and those unable to empty or move the bins themselves. It was suggested that the introduction of a volunteer scheme be encouraged to support those who needed help in complying the service provision. (Councillor Brett)


In response, it was explained that the Strategic Delivery Board and the operational arrangements being put in place, as outlined in the report, would monitor and consider such equalities issues. An Equalities Impact Assessment had been carried out for the proposed changes which includes elderly people, this is already covered by the current policy and EIA. The recycling team would be able to respond to specific concerns from individuals. A range of Members and Officers, led by the Cabinet Member for Environment, would be involved in overseeing and monitoring the delivery of the service. A structured approach would be taken to the implementation and delivery of the service.


·         The need for effective communications with residents was highlighted. (Councillor Savva)


·         The investment of £500k per year into Street Cleansing Services was noted and clarification was sought on what this would result in. (Councillor Lemonides)


In response, the proposed use of the funding was outlined, as detailed in the report, an example being an additional 19 street sweepers, this equated to an additional 57 kilometres of streets being swept. Resources would be targeted where necessary. This was an opportunity to invest in street cleansing. Structured plans would be put in place through the ongoing operational monitoring of the service.


Officers also highlighted the resources to be targeted for effective communications with residents, as set out in the report. Officers and Members visited Harrow where it was advised that effective and continued communications was essential to the success of any service change. Officers have included a substantial communications and marketing budget as part of the on-going business model.


·         Reference was made to the proposal to charge £65 per annum for the collection of garden waste and clarification sought on the detailed proposals and implementation. (Councillor Cazimoglu). Attention was drawn to Harrow that offers residents both a seasonal and a full-year collection service, why isn’t this being offered? Also it was noted that Redbridge having introduced a paid for green waste collection service in 2016, withdrew it less than 2 years later, how can we ensure that this won’t happen here? (Councillor Anderson)


The detailed proposals were outlined, as set out in full in the report, including the options that would be available to residents. This would be an opt-in service for residents. There would be an annual charge, the reasons for which were explained. The effectiveness and implementation of this part of the service provision would be closely monitored and regularly reviewed. It was noted that a significant number of local authorities charged for the collection of garden waste which was a non-statutory service. The service would be actively marketed.


·         As set out in the report, it was noted that the former Government grant of £2.4m to retain weekly collections for waste and recycling had now ceased. A significant number of other local authorities had already implemented fortnightly collections. The role and responsibilities of the Strategic Delivery Board were highlighted. (Councillor Caliskan).


In response, Members were reminded that the Government grant had been for £2.46m. Approximately 78% of Councils now operated fortnightly collections. Assurances were given on the operational responsibilities of the Strategic Delivery Board to implement and monitor the effectiveness of the service.


In addition, it was reiterated that the proposals would enable investment to be made in Street Cleansing Services and would lead to the creation of additional jobs, as set out in the report. The trade unions had been fully consulted.


In conclusion, Councillor Caliskan expressed her thanks to Councillor Dogan and the officers involved for their detailed and comprehensive work.


Councillor Caliskan also highlighted the number of representations that had been received from various groups in the Borough regarding the forthcoming budget setting process (Minute No.5 below referred) and reiterated the financial difficulties being faced by the Council in meeting the needs of its most vulnerable residents.


Alternative Options Considered: The primary driver of the evaluation was the financial savings that could be achieved. The evaluation also took into account conformity with the Mayor’s Environment Strategy, and the responses to the consultation. Proposals 1 to 6, the current collection system and the recommended proposal had been considered against the pre-agreed criteria. Proposals 1 to 6 and retaining the current collection system least aligned with the set criteria.


DECISION: The Cabinet agreed to approve:


1.            The adoption and implementation of Proposal 7 for kerbside properties with a wheeled bin of: fortnightly refuse collections, fortnightly dry recycling collections, a new separate weekly food waste collection and the introduction of a charge of £65 per year for collecting garden waste from properties that opt into the service as set out in the report.


2.            The creation of a Strategic Delivery Board made up of members and officers (such members to be appointed by the Leader of the Council) to oversee the implementation of the new service arrangements.


3.            Delegation to the Director of Environment (in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Environment) the decision to procure, negotiate and award contracts (in accordance with the Council’s Procurement Rules) for the vehicles and any works and services as appropriate associated with the implementation of the recommended proposal.


4.            The one-off mobilisation and capital expenditure, of £2.28 million would be funded by the flexible use of capital receipts and £759k (£500k investment and £259k new posts and communications) would be revenue.


5.            Delegate to the Director of Environment (in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Environment) the decision to make operational amendments to any of the proposals as set out in the report.


Reason: NOTED, the detailed reasons for the recommendations as set out in section 5 of the report, including financial savings and conformity with the London Mayor’s Environment Strategy.

(Key decision – reference number 4810)

Supporting documents: