Challenging recycling targets lead to bin collection changes

Welsh councils face tough targets to recycle household waste – and if they don’t hit those targets, they will be hit hard by fines.

Over the last couple of years, this has meant changes to what rubbish is collected, when it is collected and how it is collected.

Some decisions have proved unpopular, with this fact illustrated by the reaction to Cardiff council’s new system that was launched on Monday.

Cardiff was the worst-performing authority in Wales when figures for December 2014 were released, recycling 48% of its waste. The Welsh government has set each local authority a target of hitting 58% by March 2016.

In an effort to meet this target, Cardiff council has spent £1.6 million on waste collection changes that include reducing the size of its black refuse bins and sending out green waste wheelie bins.

Some residents, who don’t have gardens, called the new green bins a “waste of money” and protested by taking them to city hall last Thursday, saying they “ruined” the look of the area.

Alison Hambury in Llandaff North, Cardiff, said her block of eight flats was given nine green bins and eight black bins.

“I’m all for recycling, I just don’t really see the point of all the bins and I don’t see how we’re saving money,” she said.

But Julie Richardson from Canton said she participates in surveys for the council, and had said yes to the wheelie bins.

“We used to have black bin bags and now the seagulls can’t attack my bins any more. It makes the street cleaner.”

Bob Derbyshire, Cardiff council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment, said claims the public was not informed about the move “frankly beggars belief”.

He said the council conducted a survey, consultations, and a publicity campaign.

Other councils around Wales have experienced problems. Rhondda Cynon Taf council, for example, estimated that 20% of recycling bags left by residents are “contaminated” with the wrong type of waste. It has told its workers not to collect these.

In Merthyr Tydfil, some residents complained new bins for non-recyclable were too small, while in Blaenau Gwent, there have been concerns that some residents may struggle getting new recycling trolleys up steps to their properties.

Tim Peppin, the Welsh Local Government Association’s (WLGA’s) director of regeneration and sustainable development, said that if local authorities do not meet targets, Welsh ministers have the power to impose fines.

These would amount to £200 for every tonne by which an authority fails to meet its target. For example, if an authority needs to recycle 4,000 tonnes more to hit the percentage target, it could potentially be hit with a £800,000 fine.

The Welsh government has set its authorities targets of recycling 58% by 2015-16 and 70% by 2024-25.

While in theory, large fines could be applied, in practice, Mr Peppin said this may not happen.

The target for 2012-13 was 52% and no authority was fined then for missing the target. Mr Peppin said that the possibility of fines would increase if an authority was seen to be doing nothing to improve recycling rates. Full article: www.bbc.co.uk