Agenda item

Waste and Recycling

An update on the implementation of the Waste Management Review and the Executive Response to the Waste Management Review Scrutiny Report and Recommendations carried out in 2021


The Committee agreed to look at the item in in the context of the waste hierarchy and divided it into three sections for discussion:


Section 1 - Household waste and the front end of the waste hierarchy (reduce and reuse).


The Committee noted that progress was being made and accepted assurances that the Council was on track to meet the targets within the strategy. Some members questioned the inclusion of the words ‘significant’ and ‘ambitious’ within recommendation (a) and suggested they came across as self-congratulatory.


The Committee suggested that the content of paragraph 19 of the strategy (particularly points 19A and 19C) needed to be stronger and felt greater emphasis should be placed on the circular economy. As an example of how recycling could be encouraged, the Committee pointed to a household recycling centre (HRC) in the neighbouring authority of Monmouthshire, which contained an off-ramp from the main HRC, leading to a repurposed building, where anything with a useful onward life could be deposited for recycling and purchased by the public. It was pointed out that there was no equivalent service within Herefordshire and that the situation should be rectified, temporary classrooms could potentially be repurposed and located at local HRCs where practical.


The Committee acknowledged the benefits of pop-up recycling shops, but highlighted the inconsistency associated with such stores. The Committee stated that charity shops regularly lacked the capacity to process items and that a dedicated on-site recycling building (including a shop that was accessible to the general public) would be a quick and cost-effective way to boost recycling in the county. The Committee requested that an update be provided on 19A and 19C.


The Committee agreed that in relation to reducing waste, the Council needed to get its own house in order and point to what it was doing to encourage the public and local community to follow its example. A joined up approach within the waste hierarchy was needed with all players engaged and the Committee enquired when a waste analysis of residual waste would be available.


The Committee expressed its concerns about reports from Welsh Water in relation to the damage from overflow from blocked pipes, a significant factor in many of these blockages was the incorrect disposal of non-flushable items such as kitchen towels and wet wipes. Education on correct disposal of these and other such items would be crucial in tackling this problem and the Committee suggested that the Council could consider working together with Welsh Water on this issue.


Members of the Committee pointed out that quite often charity shops would not accept certain items and that encouraging and assisting people/communities to set-up and staff repair shops could be something for the Council to incorporate in its strategy.


The Committee enquired about facilitation and how much was being done to bolster the infrastructure to allow people to reuse, repair and reduce waste once they had been educated.


The Committee suggested that the recycling centre booking system presented an excellent opportunity to challenge what people were taking to the centres and educate them on methods and facilities available for efficient waste disposal, however a nuanced approach should be taken when engaging with the public. It was felt that working closely with the charitable sector to communicate best practice for recycling would also be useful.


The head of environment climate emergency and waste services responded to the Committee’s comments and enquiries. It was explained that the team had responded to over 23 recommendations contained within the Task and Finish report and that significant and impressive progress had been made in this area. The team had extended and varied the waste disposal contract to enable the new waste collection contract, this had been a huge piece of work and the team had done an ‘amazing’ job to deliver this within the timescales. Targets set for reducing landfill were significantly ahead of schedule and the figure was likely to be under 1% within the year, which was three years ahead of schedule.


The head of service highlighted improvements that had been made in relation to recycling opportunities within the county through food waste collection, increased card and paper segregation and a full value garden waste scheme. A number of pilot schemes had also been launched, one particular success was the nappy scheme, which was launched six months previously and had been completely oversubscribed within 36 hours of launch, with more vouchers having to be released to meet demand. Social media engagement relating to the scheme had been hugely positive and the council had been working closely with anti-natal care to ensure the scheme’s continued success.


The waste transformation lead explained that a repair shop grant scheme had started in the autumn - with assistance from volunteers and expertise from surrounding areas, including Ledbury and Malvern, the first store in Herefordshire would be opening in a month and would provide a template for others to follow. Herefordshire Council would be working closely with third parties and charities through the journey of education and engagement and this would be a base to take things forward, with other organisations coming forward to apply for the grant and set up more repair shops within the county.


The head of service pointed out that the current waste disposal contract had been due to terminate in 2024, but had been extended to 2029, which in waste terms was a short time. The Council was currently reviewing options for 2029 and beyond and was engaging with local partnerships and the department of levelling up. The team were also working with the current contractor and looking at national best practice to establish what could be done with reuse facilities presently and in the future.


The head of service also drew the attention of the Committee to a newly contracted bulky waste reuse collection service, which would no longer automatically classify bulky items as waste, but would instead see them classed as a potentially reusable item. The team were working on getting bulky items out of the waste stream and into the reuse stream and were revisiting the “getting it right” campaign to get the right messages, to the right places to the right people.



Section 2 - Household waste at the back end (recycling, recovery and disposal).


The Committee asked whether information and data was available regarding the number of people choosing not to recycle and what was the Council doing to address this situation?


The head of environment climate emergency and waste services assured the Committee they would be provided with a copy of the consultation report, which contained relevant data on the matter in question.


The Committee asked for clarity on terminology used in paragraphs 8C and 17 of the report in relation to the terms ‘contract monitoring’ and ‘best practice review of contact management’. It also asked what the Council was doing in terms of inspections to check that the contracts in place were being adhered to?


The head of service explained that contract monitoring involved ensuring there was better accountability and transparency around the journey of waste after it had been collected, and obtaining assurances about where that waste goes. With Mercia the waste journey was clear, but the Council wanted Mercia to undertake work with sub-contractors to go further down the supply chain, for even greater transparency. It was noted that the assurance and contractual agreement to go right down the whole supply chain was now in place.


Regarding the review of contract management, this involved working jointly with Worcestershire County Council and an external consultancy to see how improvements could be produced in relation to best practice and continual improvement. In terms of monitoring and inspecting what the contractor was doing the team went through monthly reports and reviews with colleagues at Worcestershire County Council and regular meetings and reports with the contractor were taking place.


The waste services manager explained that in terms of monitoring the journey of waste, every load of waste had a weighbridge note that went with it so that its movement could be tracked. All locations where waste was sent had a data return, which was checked by Defra on a regular basis, plans were being worked on to see if the Council could go further in tracing waste to its end destination.


It was noted that KPIs (to monitor that contractors were doing as agreed) were currently being looked at as part of forthcoming commissioned contract management review.


The waste services manager answered a question from the Committee regarding the collection of soft plastics. National trials were currently taking place in relation to recycling soft plastics and Herefordshire was keen to be involved in these. The impact of a future soft plastics tax remained to be seen, but could see a drop-off of such materials in coming years. 



Section 3 - Business waste, in particular food waste from small businesses and fly tipping.


The Committee asked questions in relation to:


·       The way small businesses, especially takeaways, disposed of waste food and what checks were in place to monitor this?

·       Could a phosphate benefit be derived from food waste?

·       Were any kind of in-field waste schemes in place within Herefordshire, whereby farmers would allow foodbanks access to unwanted crops?

·       Communications of tyre disposal on the Council website.

·       Was the Council taking a consistent line on carbon reduction, especially in relation its fleet of waste trucks? Was there a carbon reduction scoring system in place as part of the decision matrix?


The head of service and waste services manager addressed the points raised by the Committee and explained that:


·       The Council offered a waste recycling service through a commercial food waste collection. The waste was disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner in a facility outside of the county.  Small businesses were not told where or how to dispose of waste, but there was a wealth of information available to them via regular communications. The community protection team work closely with the waste team to ensure businesses were being supported and were complying with the rules.

·       Phosphate benefits derived from food and in-field schemes were currently being discussed with relevant partners and third parties.

·       It was pointed out that tyres could no longer be placed in landfill, however many garages and recycling centres would dispose of them for a small fee, where they would be chipped and reused for playground surfacing and other suitable purposes. Instances of the fly tipping of tyres should be reported to the community protection team who can investigate incidents where there is a pattern.

·       The Council was keen to promote and encourage business cases to deliver carbon reduction wherever possible. In relation to the fleet of waste trucks, half of the fleet was refurbished in 2013-2014. The fleet was currently owned by the contractor and was ageing, but recycling of the existing fleet had been used to extend the lifespan of other vehicles.


This concluded the questions. The Committee discussed and drew up a number of recommendations, which were proposed and approved unanimously:


It was unanimously resolved that:


1)    The committee notes the significant progress to date through the Waste Transformation Programme and is assured that the Council is on track for early delivery of the ambitious new targets within the new Integrated Waste Management Strategy, and


2)    The following recommendations should be considered by the Executive for inclusion:


a) There should be additional information provided (via the self-serve booking system and located within) local recycling centres, identifying additional opportunities to re-use and repair items that would otherwise be sent to waste or re-cycling.  
            (i) As part of this, working with charitable sector partners to expand and communicate the diversity of options for re-use.

b) Strengthened communication is provided on the opportunities available to reduce, repair re-use and recycle locally - targeted at those who do not currently process their waste in this method.

c) That the Executive set in place a reporting and communications campaign to ensure that the public are made aware of how each of our waste streams are used  (recycling, waste for energy recovery and for disposal to landfill), and explains where each waste stream is directed to and how each stream is re-processed.”


d) That Smart KPIs are agreed with our contractors responsible for recycling, waste for energy recovery and disposal to landfill.

e) Infrastructure is provided at recycling centres to enable and maximise opportunity to allocate their items for re-use.

f) Measures are taken to ensure that when local food outlets are inspected by environment health information is provided about the opportunities and additional options available to them to recycle their waste.

g) Development of the business cases within the proposed capital programme should ensure consistent criteria relating to environmental and sustainability measures applied to their fullest extent in relation to reaching carbon neutrality, and repair and re-use of redundant equipment and buildings.  

h) Alongside this, development of a carbon scoring system to be able to assess how specific projects contribute to carbon reduction targets in relation to other options.

Supporting documents: