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Could bins go to monthly collections in West Berkshire?

Waste collections in West Berkshire could shift from every two weeks to every three or even four weeks.

Consultants hired by West Berkshire Council say it will be a good thing, as it will ‘make us better at recycling’.

“The public will have their say on this no doubt on those quite hard to swallow options,” said Adrian Abbs (Lib Dem, Wash Common), who now heads the recycling portfolio at the council.

It has also looked at monthly collections for black bin collections, but suggests a move to collections every three weeks provides the best option to reduce the district's carbon footprint.

“The reason for looking at that is that those less frequent collections are the thing that has proved the most successful in increasing the amount of recycling that people do,” said Peter Jones, from the consultant Eunomia, contracted by West Berkshire Council to look into developing a new waste strategy for the district.

“Some of our leading local authorities in the UK on recycling rate have lower frequency collections than the fortnightly ones currently in place in West Berkshire.

“The amount of waste only changes when you do something that causes people to act differently.

“At three weekly collections we estamite the authority’s recycling rate will move from 49 per cent to 57 per cent,” he said.

Facing questions from the cross party environment advisory group, he assured the council that weekly food waste collections would remain.

“That’s the one that isn’t nice to have hanging around,” said Martha Vickers (Lib Dem, Newbury Speen).

The consultant has produced statistics which show recycling jumps from around 50 per cent at a two-weekly collection, to around 60 per cent when bins are picked up monthly.

No decisions on this have been made.

But, in what looks like an early spin attempt at making fewer bin collections look more attractive, the consultant presented the option to the council’s Environment Advisory Group as a good thing.

“I am sure I am not along in remembering the fall out of public opinion when we went from weekly to fortnighly collections,” commented Dennis Benneyworth (Con, Hungerford and Kintbury).

“Rolling that further out will be an interesting one to sell to the public. Would it be possible to mitigate this with more of the popular mini recycling centres?” he asked.

The consultant has used what term mathematical models, but said focus is on different collection vehicles and different collection frequencies – rather than different streaming of materials.

The discussions come as the current waste contractor Veolia is said to be midway through changing its fleet of waste collection vehicles.

Its 25-year contract with the council limits changes that could be introduced over then next 10 or so years.

The consultant has run the numbers on changing the vehicle types used to collect waste.

“As a result of going to three weekly or four weekly collections, you are able to reduce the amount of residual waste vehicles that are required which means a saving on vehicle use,” said Mr Jones.

The Government has announced four major policy changes affecting how waste is managed in England and how services are funded, which will affect how West Berkshire manages waste in the future.

One of those is called ‘consistent collections’, and the West Berkshire consultant zoned in on this with its first reveal of the potential new waste strategy for the district.

There is also an intended deposit return scheme in the pipeline for drinks containers, such as plastic bottles and cans.

These will ultimately be taken out of the council’s collection system and collected at shops instead.

The council is looking into adding in trays, pots and punnets into the recyling by 2024/25, along with plastic film by 2027.

The timings of these Government policies are still not clear.

Currently, properties with their own bins have a fortnightly collection – divided into ‘streams’ of materials. (paper, glass, plastic etc). There are weekly food waste collections and a fortnightly chargeable garden waste service.

“These collections require a special type of vehicle which collects three differtent types of materials on the same round,” explained Mr Jones.

Because of the likely change in plastic bottle and cans recycling, the vehicles currently in use might not be right.

“We discussed with the council a range of options they might want to consider to make sure they were operating in the most cost and environmentally effective way,” said Mr Jones.

The consultant is now in discussion with council officers over the collection options before the waste strategy is put to committee for decision.

A public consultation is likely later this year.

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