Future of recycling and waste services moves a step closer

North Somerset councillors have approved the award of a new contract for household recycling and waste services and recycling centres for the area to Biffa Municipal Ltd, following the expiry of the current contract at the end of February 2017.

The new contract will come into effect on 1 March next year, and changes on the horizon include an improved food waste collection service for properties with communal recycling, collection of small electrical items, the incremental introduction of different coloured boxes to help residents sort their recycling more effectively and a garden waste subscription service using predominantly green bins in place of the bags currently in use.

Since the current contract began in 2010, North Somerset Council has become, and remained, one of the top performing councils in the country for recycling. Over the past ten years, the amount of residual waste generated by each household has dropped year-on-year and, on average, each one now produces much less than half what it did in 2006, and well below the national average.

The combination of an effective recycling and waste service, and residents’ efforts to recycle more have resulted in a reduction in the proportion of waste sent to landfill from 59 per cent in 2009/10 to 20 per cent in 2015/16, reducing the cost of sending waste to landfill by about £15m over the same period.

The current recycling and waste service is also extremely popular with residents, with satisfaction ratings between 87 and 91 per cent across various aspects of the service. In developing the new contract arrangements, the council has worked hard to ensure these high levels of customer satisfaction are maintained, and that further service improvements are introduced.

Other features include keeping the price affordable in the face of rising costs, and ensuring that the contract can be flexible to deal with future scenarios. Further improvements in environmental performance will also be delivered, and the new contract will provide employment and training opportunities for local people.

Cllr Peter Bryant, executive member for recycling and waste, said: “As a council we have worked hard to get our recycling and waste service to the current excellent performance levels, and I am keen that we sustain this.

“A lot of work has been going on in recent months to ensure that the new contract enables us to continue to provide a service that our residents value, find easy to use, is cost-effective and ensures that as much waste as possible is re-used or recycled, instead of ending up in a hole in the ground.

“There are a number of features of the new contract which I hope our residents will welcome, and that will enable us to maintain our position as one of the top performing councils in the country for recycling and waste. This is a great opportunity for all of us to refocus our efforts on reducing, re-using and recycling.”

Given the financial pressures which have become apparent during the lifetime of the current contract, the council has worked hard to develop a pragmatic approach to the new contract’s specification based on a partnership approach which shares risks and reduces costs.

As well as improvements to the services offered, one of the key differences for the new contract is the sharing of the risk and opportunity presented by the fluctuating values of recyclable materials. The current contract sees the service provider shouldering the costs when values fall, but also benefitting when values rise. The new contract will see a 50:50 share between the council and the contractor.

Other technical features of the contract include a more cost-effective approach to vehicle financing and ownership, an incentive for the contractor to improve recycling at recycling centres and an excess profit share mechanism.

Before the new contract starts next March, the council will ensure that all residents are aware of the improvements they can expect and changes which will affect them to ensure a smooth transition to any new services.

The report that went to Tuesday’s Full Council meeting can be viewed on the council’s website at: http://apps.n-somerset.gov.uk/cairo/docs/doc27501.pdf.