Scrutiny set to discuss potential changes to bin collections

Front on wheelie bin lined up on street
Proposals that would save money and boost the district’s recycling rate will be considered by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee tonight (Tuesday, 20 September).

The committee will convene to review proposals, which include introducing a new weekly food waste collection and changing the frequency of refuse bin collections across East Herts.

Waste, recycling and street cleansing services operate as part of a shared service with North Herts Council who will be meeting to consider similar service changes in the coming weeks.

If approved, food waste would be collected weekly at the kerbside from 2025 when the government is expected to mandate this change as part of its new waste and resources strategy. The food waste collected would be turned into a rich compost, helping to improve the district’s recycling rate.

Also included is a move to empty refuse bins for general rubbish every three weeks, instead of the current fortnightly cycle. The move would help the council cope with an expected cost increase of up to £1.3m, with further pressures on council finances expected as inflation peaks at its highest level for decades. The council collects waste from 62,000 homes at a cost of over £3.5m a year, making it one of its largest areas of expenditure.

Introducing a three weekly collection cycle would:

  • Reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 60 tonnes as collection vehicles would be out for less time and cover a lower mileage
  • Save around £270k a year, a substantial reduction in the current landscape of rising costs and other pressures on council budgets
  • Reduce waste by encouraging residents to free up space in their refuse bin.
  • Help increase the district’s recycling rate - recent analysis of refuse bins in East Herts found that 43% of the contents could be recycled.*

Under the proposals recycling would continue to be collected on a fortnightly basis in a wheeled bin for mixed dry recycling and a separate box for paper.

The results from a recent public consultation seeking views on people’s recycling and waste habits have helped inform the proposal. Among the results it was positive to see that:

  • 76% of respondents say ‘I care about the environment and climate change and do my bit’
  • Nearly 45% said their refuse bins for general waste are either half-full or quarter-full when it’s time to be collected
  • 84% of respondents agreed the council should do more to make people recycle and reduce waste and 74% of residents agreed the council should invest in or change services to reduce its carbon footprint.

Cllr Graham McAndrew, Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability, said: “I was greatly encouraged by the survey results, which clearly show residents want to help improve our recycling rate and reduce waste in East Herts.

“Our current collection contract ends in spring 2025, so we need to look at the service now to ensure we have explored all options to achieve value for money and increase levels of recycling.

“At the moment, a three-weekly refuse bin collection cycle is just a proposal, but we all need to do our bit for the planet which includes looking at our waste habits – reducing what we throw away, reusing items where possible and recycling as much as we can at the kerbside and elsewhere. Almost half of survey respondents said their refuse bin is less than half full, which combined with the results of our recent analysis and the addition of a food waste collection, gives us the confidence that residents could manage this change.

“If councillors agree our proposals, we know some households might need more support, such as those living in larger households, those with multiple children using disposable nappies or people with other special waste needs, and we will have measures in place to help them.”

A series of cross-party workshops with local councillors from both authorities helped to shape the proposals, which following Overview and Scrutiny will be considered by the council’s Executive on 25 October. If endorsed, three-weekly waste collections would be introduced from spring 2025.

An increasing number of councils in England and Wales already have three-weekly general waste collections, with some in Wales and Scotland having monthly collections.