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Council facing £24m bill to improve recycling rates

09 Jul 2024 3 minute read
Caerphilly bin lorry. Image: CCBC

Nicholas Thomas, local democracy reporter

The council with the worst recycling rates in Wales could require millions of pounds of borrowing to introduce sweeping changes to its waste and recycling collections.

Caerphilly council has around £2.7 million in Welsh Government fines hanging over its head unless it improves, however the cost of the transforming waste services could prove significantly higher than the fines for non-compliance.

Three- or four-weekly bin collections, a new system for separating recyclables at home, and closing some of the borough’s tips are all being considered as ways to drive up local recycling rates.

Enormous cost

These policies could come at an enormous cost, however, with one senior Caerphilly County Borough Council officer admitting “we haven’t got the infrastructure” to deal with the scale of change and a “blueprint-compliant collection service” for the area’s waste.

There are plans to build a new waste management hub at a “mid-Valleys” site, the location of which remains a closely-guarded secret amid “tentative” negotiations with the landowner.

If a deal is struck, initial hopes to refurbish the existing building there have been dashed over access and size issues, meaning the council will instead construct a “fit-for-purpose” replacement, sending the overall capital spending on the council’s new waste strategy to nearly £54m.

It is hoped the Welsh Government will cover most of that sum, but the recycling revolution is still expected to set the council back more than £24m, including the costs of replacing its bin collection lorries – and the council “would either need to reprioritise existing commitments or undertake borrowing” to fund its plans.

That figure doesn’t take into account the operational costs for the new waste strategy.

This would fall solely on the council, with an estimated revenue gap of £1.2m annually until 2030, and then £0.5m a year after that.

Capital spending

If the council does decide to borrow money to fund the capital spending, it forecasts this would mean paying back an additional £1.9m a year until the loan is repaid.

Jarringly, the spending that is required to avoid the government’s recycling fines dwarfs the amount the council would actually be fined.

The council estimates it is currently threatened with £2.7m in fines for non-compliance, up to this year, and fines are “forecast” to be an extra £1.3m from next year onwards, based on Caerphilly’s current performance.

But at a meeting of Caerphilly Council’s joint scrutiny committee, on Monday July 8, engagement manager Hayley Lancaster told councillors “doing nothing is not an option”.

The council believes the new waste strategy will give it the best chance of meeting its own environmental targets, as well as those set nationally – even if the changes come at a significant initial cost.

At the meeting, however, there was some disagreement over some of the proposed changes for residents.

Cllr Carl Cuss was one of several members who criticised a proposal to close a tip in Rhymney, while Cllr Lindsay Whittle said several extra recycling bags and boxes could be an issue for people living in terraced homes.

Cllr Shane Williams went further, suggesting people with health or mobility problems may struggle with the additional containers, while Cllr Gary Johnston said he was concerned a more complicated system would “make it harder for people to recycle”.

Senior officers noted the committee’s comments and will take the feedback to Caerphilly Council’s cabinet members, ahead of a decision on the new waste strategy at the end of July.

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Cllr Pete Roberts
Cllr Pete Roberts
4 days ago

Powys residents including those in terraced housing have 3 boxes and a compost bin for recycling and have done for years. We also have one of the highest recycling rates in the country.
Yes, there is an investment cost, but it has been done incrementally over 10 or more years rather than being a one off catch up cost now the fines are biting.

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