Green Councillor Simon Pickering, chair of environment committee at Stroud District Council, says the biggest improvement in its recycling rate for the last financial year is down to a revamp of its collection service.
Defra’s latest set of figures for local authority collected waste in England shows that Stroud topped the table in terms of greatest increase in recycling, composting and reuse.
The council’s combined recycling and composting rate jumped to 61.2% for 2017/18, up 15.7% from its rate of 45.5% for the previous year. This means Stroud was sixth of the league table of top performing local authorities – last year the council placed at 150.
Stroud is a rural district council in Gloucestershire, with around 52,000 households. The council introduced a number of changes to its service offering from November 2016, which included introducing separate food waste collections.
The new service also saw reduced capacity 140 litre bins for residual waste, with collection frequency reducing from weekly to fortnightly. Recycling is collected commingled in a 240 litre bin, with card and paper collected separately.
When contacted by letsrecycle.com, Cllr Pickering said he was “very pleased” with the result, and praised the commitment of the council staff, collection crews and the public.
Cllr Pickering also pointed to the council’s decision to move to a teckal contract with Ubico – a company partly-owned by the authority. Previously, Stroud had a long-term contract with Veolia. The move has given the authority greater “flexibility” over its services, Cllr Pickering claimed.
Food waste, previously sent to landfill in the black bin, now goes to an anaerobic digestion facility in Bishops Cleeve operated by Andigestion.
And, Cllr Pickering remarked the authority had seen an “amazing uptake in food waste collections” of around 80%.
Therefore, it was not just the increase in recycling which had led to improvements, but that the changes have “halved the waste going to landfill,” Cllr Pickering said.
Along with the greatest improved recycling rate, Stroud also recorded the lowest residual waste per household in 2017/18 at 258.6 kg/household.
Cllr Pickering said the council had raised publicity about the changes to its service over the summer of 2016, which included leaflets, radio and social media, as well as in the parish newspapers. The new food waste bins were also delivered ahead of the service starting.
And, he explained that using a “clear, simple message” was key, which extends to the council’s collections.
“Now we’ve made the change and got the momentum, we really need some clear policy from government,” Cllr Pickering said. “The appetite is definitely there [to recycle more].”
Cllr Pickering said that recycling materials needs to be “financially viable” for local authorities.
He revealed that costs had increased when the new service was introduced, in part because of the large volumes of materials that the council was dealing with.
Going forward, the council is looking to increase collection rounds to cater for the extra volumes of recyclable materials. And, Cllr Pickering also revealed that three-weekly collections for residual waste are being considered, however, he emphasised that the council “won’t rush into that”.