Decision details

Options for Increasing the Recycling Rate

Decision Maker: Cabinet

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: No

Is subject to call in?: Yes


To provide further information and detail concerning the range of options for increasing the NI192 score (recycling and composting) and decreasing the NI191 score (the amount of residual household waste per household) of the Council, as well as an update on progress following the Executive Board report of November 2009.




1)           options 1 and 2 of the report not be adopted until the review of the Material Recycling Facility (MRF) contract is complete, and the long term waste treatment arrangements for Norfolk are clear;


2)           options 3 and 4 of the report be adopted;


3)           the continued negotiations by the Environmental Health Manager with a view to taking a firm recommendation on the adoption of option 5 of the report to Cabinet in September 2010 be supported.

Reasons for the decision:

Option 1 of the report would result in a considerable reduction in residual waste, and a parallel significant increase in recycling/composting rates. In addition, food waste as a biodegradable material is precisely the nature of material that is most undesirable in a landfill; this is reflected in the enhanced recycling credit available for food waste collections. However, the cost of such a collection is very high at up to £400 per tonne collected. This cost does not compare favourably with other recycling and composting schemes, and if rolled out across the whole of Breckland equates to a net revenue cost in excess of £1 million per annum in the long term.

At present there is no strong regulatory or central government driver for collecting this material and the targets for diversion set out in the Waste Strategy for England are already being met.  The County Council had proposed thermal treatment of waste as the solution to enable compliance with the landfill directive going forward.

There is likely to be significant developments in the opportunities for waste recycling and treatment over the next two years, with a review of the material Recycling Facility (MRF) contract about to commence, and the forthcoming county waste PFI contract being let in 2011. This cannot not be guaranteed in the medium to long term that the enhanced recycling credit for food waste will continue, in particular as such waste could legitimately be treated through the proposed combined heat and power facility proposed under the waste PFI contract. This being the case, it is recommended that the food waste collection option not be adopted at this stage, but be reviewed once there is greater clarity concerning developing waste scenario in Norfolk.

The available data suggests that existing bring bank arrangements in Breckland are highly successful, and that the level of recyclable glass in green bins is relatively low. The bring bank system does show a reasonable net income, and provides support to various community groups within the district.

The kerbside glass collection option is likely to show only a modest increase in recycling rates, and a modest decrease in residual waste and yet is relatively expensive to adopt. It is likely that much glass would be diverted from bring banks to kerbside banks which would impair both the financial and carbon efficiency of the bring bank scheme. Carrying out targeted promotion of glass bring bank usage is likely to release much of the recycling and financial potential of the glass currently ending up in green bins, and would result in a modest net income rather than the net cost of a kerbside scheme, therefore it is recommended that option 2 of the report not be adopted

Option 3 of the report does not tackle the underlying problem of waste going to landfill. Nevertheless it is a neutral cost means of increasing composting, and is popular with many householders. Given that increasing subscriptions to this scheme is relatively straightforward, and there is a predictable positive impact on NI192, it is recommended that option 3 be adopted, subject to the successful conclusion of pricing negotiations with Serco.

Option 4 of the report gets to the root of the waste issue, and brings the issue of landfill waste into sharp relief. As the carbon reduction agenda rises, and as a public sector priority, efforts to reduce waste at source must be renewed and revitalised. This initiative would operate within existing budgets (and possibly modestly increase net income through promoting glass bank usage) through the refocusing of the work of the Environmental Services team and Serco, which would seek to provide credible long-term solutions to the problem of waste. Thus the adoption of option 4 is strongly recommended.

There are currently administrative impairments to the recycling of bulky household waste, and this might prove to be significant financial and carbon costs (through additional waste miles) and financial costs in due course. Further detailed analysis is required to ensure that such a scheme is workable, affordable and does actually makes a significant positive contribution to waste metrics and the environment. It is recommended that option 5 of the report not be adopted at this stage, but that further work be carried out to firm up fully costed proposals that are acceptable to Norfolk County Council’s waste team, and the findings be reported back to Cabinet in September 2010.


Alternative options considered:

Appendix A of the report details the costs and benefits of the various potential additional schemes and other initiatives available.

Report author: Roger Wilkin

Publication date: 10/06/2010

Date of decision: 08/06/2010

Decided at meeting: 08/06/2010 - Cabinet

Effective from: 18/06/2010

Accompanying Documents: