Agenda item

Options for Increasing the Recycling Rate (Agenda item 7)

Report of the Executive Member for the Environment & Recycling Portfolio (Lady K Fisher).


The Environmental Services Manager presented the report which provided Members with 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).  The report also included an update on progress following the Executive Board meeting of November 2009.


The Executive Member for the Environment and Recycling Portfolio congratulated the Environmental Services Team for working very hard in reviewing the Council’s recycling strategy.


The Environmental Services Manager summarised the report which set out a range of options and the cost implications against the benefits of the Council’s waste profile.  He emphasised that whilst Norfolk County Council’s Waste PFI contract was in the midst of being prepared, and was beyond Breckland Council’s control, this was not the time to invest in any large programmes.  It was about making the most of what the Council already had, without making any compromises.


Attention was drawn to Appendix B of the report which highlighted the amount of recycling credits paid to Community Groups.  In the financial year 2009/10, in excess of £24,000 in recycling credits had been paid to local community groups across the district as part of this scheme. The Environmental Services Team was continuing to seek opportunities to expand the network of recycling banks and a number of Parish Councils had been contacted since January 2010 with a view to identifying suitable sites.


A Member announced that Bawdeswell Parish Council had been very pleased with its recycling credits received and was more than happy to encourage its parishioners to increase their recycling rates.


Referring to Option 2, a kerbside glass collection service, Members were informed that there was a public desire to have such a service but with the economic climate at an all time low, it would not be cost effective and would not make that much difference to the recycling rates.


The Executive Member for the Transformation Portfolio queried Option 4 of the report, reducing residual waste, which he felt could have a negative impact on the Council’s income.  He asked if the Environmental Services Team had thought about the risk to the Council and whether anything would be put in place to mitigate this.


In response, Members were informed that Breckland Council had approached and was working very closely with Serco about increasing recyclable materials and reducing the amount of contamination.  Long term solutions were being sought.


The Executive Member added that he had recently read a paper on down-cycling.  Down-cycling was a process which converted waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of a lesser quality and reduced functionality.  He felt that everyone would eventually have to consider this new process and suggested taking this up with Norfolk County Council.


The Environmental Services Manager agreed and pointed out that the recycling arena was changing; future emphasis would be to extract value rather than focusing on recycling rates.


A Member felt that the Council should concentrate on educating the public about the three ‘Rs’ in the following order – reduction, re-using and then recycling.




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




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 was precisely the nature of material that was most undesirable in a landfill; this had been reflected in the enhanced recycling credit available for food waste collections. However, the cost of such a collection was very high at up to £400 per tonne collected. This cost did not compare favourably with other recycling and composting schemes, and if rolled out across the whole of Breckland equated to a net revenue cost in excess of £1 million per annum in the long term.

At present there was no strong regulatory or central government driver for collecting this material and the targets for diversion set out in the Waste Strategy for England were 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 was 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 could not be guaranteed in the medium to long term, that the enhanced recycling credit for food waste would 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 was recommended that the food waste collection option not be adopted at this stage, but be reviewed once there was greater clarity concerning developing waste scenario in Norfolk.

The available data suggested that existing bring bank arrangements in Breckland were highly successful, and that the level of recyclable glass in green bins was relatively low. The bring bank system did show a reasonable net income, and provided support to various community groups within the district.

The kerbside glass collection option was likely to show only a modest increase in recycling rates, and a modest decrease in residual waste and yet was relatively expensive to adopt. It was 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 was 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 was recommended that option 2 of the report not be adopted

Option 3 of the report did not tackle the underlying problem of waste going to landfill. Nevertheless it was a neutral cost means of increasing composting, and was popular with many householders. Given that increasing subscriptions to this scheme was relatively straightforward, and there was a predictable positive impact on NI192, it was 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 brought 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, credible long-term solutions would be sought for the problem of waste. Thus the adoption of option 4 was strongly recommended.

There were 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 was required to ensure that such a scheme was workable, affordable and did actually make a significant positive contribution to waste metrics and the environment. It was 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 were acceptable to Norfolk County Council’s waste team, and the findings be reported back to Cabinet in September 2010.




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.

Supporting documents: