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THE HERALD FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 16 2016


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Top recycler rises WHEN the figures for recycling


in Wales were reported last month, Ceredigion stood proudly atop the table. Recycling is increasing nationwide and the latest figures show that the Welsh government’s target of 58% is largely being met. The recycling rate is calculated


by dividing the weight of materials sent for recycling, composting and preparation for re-use or treatment by the total weight of all municipal waste dealt with by the council. Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environmental and Rural Affairs, was duly pleased with the reported figures: “This is the first year recycling targets have increased beyond the ambitious level of 58%, up from the previous year’s target of 52%. It’s clear that local authorities and householders are working hard to recycle and we are well on the way to achieving our 70% recycling target set for 2025. I am proud that we lead the rest of the UK in our recycling rate, but I want us to do even better and become Europe’s best recycling nation.” All but three of Wales’ 22 local authorities reached the target of 58%. Blaenau Gwent was the big


disappointment with the lowest rate, falling to just 49%. Ceredigion was well ahead of


the game with 68% of waste being reused or recycled in the last year. It was a mixed bag (!) of results for Ceredigion’s neighbouring authorities, however, with Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire reaching 65% but Gwynedd and Powys not performing quite so well and just scraping in at 59%. The Welsh Government claim it will allocate more funding to authorities that performed badly so that they can improve collection


Kelvin Mason Aberystwyth Reporter kelvin.mason@herald.email


services and depot facilities.


PARTNERSHIPS THE WAY FORWARD


Ceredigion County Council (CCC)


acknowledge that providing and constantly improving waste services is very challenging, particularly given major cuts in their funding. The overall aim of good waste services is to benefit the environment and improve Ceredigion residents’ quality of life. It can also be a win-win situation financially because recycling is significantly cheaper than waste disposal. Rising to the challenge of recycling and keeping their overall aim in mind, CCC recently rejected proposals from consultants PWC to outsource the collection of municipal waste at the kerbside. The dust has yet to settle on that story, though, as an online petition launched this week demands that CCC ‘stop spending £millions on private consultants’. The Herald understands that CCC did not, however, have the in-house capacity to assess the extensive cost cutting and restructuring work required. PWC were thus appointed following a tendering process as required by law. Cutting costs was made necessary in the first place because of a 25% cut to CCC’s previous revenue budget that was made by the Welsh Government. In turn, the Welsh Government itself had been subject to a huge cut in funding from Westminster. That said, the Welsh Government’s funding formula for passing the cuts on is massively discriminatory towards


rural councils. Ceredigion was hit with the second highest cut in Wales, next only to Powys. A petition targeting CCC may, then, be the equivalent of shooting the messenger. Although CCC rejected the recommendation made by PWC, the consultant’s report did enable them assess the option for balancing the budget. Cost savings still have to be


made. Over the last four years, CCC have made significant improvements and efficiencies in the dispose of residual and food waste by working in partnership with other local authorities. An agreement with Pembrokeshire County Council means that all ‘black bag’ waste is exported to provide fuel for an ‘energy from waste’ power station. In a complex environmental calculation, burning waste to generate power reduces waste to landfill. It can also mean additional environmental benefits provided that the burning is done cleanly and that the production of waste is reduced rather than increasing to meet the demand for power. CCC also works in partnership with Powys and Pembrokeshire Councils to export collected food waste to an anaerobic digestion plant which converts the waste to biogas (methane) to be burned for power generation. The process also produces a nutrient rich bio-fertiliser that can be used in place of fertilisers derived from fossil fuels. Anaerobic digestion is recognised by the Westminster government, the Welsh Government, the Scottish Parliament, Defra, Friends of the Earth and the National Farmers Union as one of the best methods for food waste recycling and dealing with farm waste and sewage sludge. The bottom line on back bag and food waste is that partnerships have saved Ceredigion


MADE TO MEASURE - FITTEDWITH PRIDE The glass menagerie: Glass collection trial in North Cardigan


money. Building on the success of its


partnerships, CCC intends to work more closely still with Pembrokeshire Council on waste collection services. The two authorities provide services in ways that are broadly compatible and both face similar challenges in terms of the physical nature and demographics of their counties. The two authorities also recognise the need for continuous improvement and innovation to meet targets and avoid crippling fines. When the councils have to replace their respective waste collection fleets, acting together will mean benefitting from economies of scale. At present, both Councils operate Household Waste Sites and transfer stations near the boundary of the counties. Cooperation could avoid duplication and reduce transport costs. CCC has engaged in preliminary


discussion with Pembrokeshire Council and the Welsh Government. Councillor Alun Williams, Cabinet Member for Transport, Waste and Carbon Management, told CCC’s cabinet: “We’ve now identified that there are significant potential benefits - both in costs and performance - to be had from cooperating further with Pembrokeshire in terms of both our waste service and our fleet of vehicles. “One of the reasons, of course,


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that we can look at working with Pembrokeshire is that they have the same kind of co-mingled recycling collection as us. That isn’t the case with our other neighbouring counties. Although Pembrokeshire didn’t perform quite as well as us in the recently published figures, at 65% they were still one of the top four counties in Wales. So, we’re talking here about two high-performing councils working together and, with recycling targets quite rightly rising all the time, there are clear potential benefits to that. “We’ve had early discussions


both with Pembrokeshire and the Welsh Government and everyone recognises the potential. The Welsh Government has therefore agreed to fund an independent review of both our services in order to see how we can work together to make some of the financial savings being demanded of us whilst also retaining our excellent recycling performance.” A ‘co-mingled’


recycling


collection means many recyclables are placed by residents in the same container. In Ceredigion, this is a clear plastic bag that is picked up from the kerbside by staff. The alternative, a ‘;kerbside sort’ means different containers are provided for different recyclable materials and these are then placed in different compartments within the refuse lorry. There are pros and cons to both systems. Kerbside sort saves the need to


divide the materials later on. In effect, the residents do the sorting rather than depot staff. Though it may produce better quality recyclate, kerbside sort requires more specialist lorries for collection and takes longer. The Herald notes that some residents of Powys, which employs kerbside sort, complain about the complexity of the system. CCC believe that co-mingling is more straightforward for residents and increases participation. Demographics probably play


a part in which kind of collection method best suits different areas. Once a council, for whatever reason, has decided on a particular collection method, however, then it usually makes good financial sense to try to stick with it. Making changes can be very costly, especially in terms of investment in specialist plant. If, for instance, CCC changed to kerbside sort, that would mean a new fleet of lorries for a start. As a powerful indicator that CCC is on the right track, the top four recycling performers in Wales all use co-mingling.


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