South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet has agreed a direction of travel as they move towards agreeing a new contract to deliver waste services after 2025, when the existing contract with Suez expires.
The driving force behind the decision is to further increase local recycling rates, making it easier for residents to recycle more materials, reducing landfill and moving towards a more circular economy. This will help the council not only improve the local environment, but also to contribute to its response to the climate and nature emergencies.
The new approach will also be designed to maintain the high-quality service currently provided, while reducing the costs to the council, which have escalated significantly in recent years as the cost of fuel and staff have increased.
The existing arrangements and contract will be in place until mid-2025 and the new arrangements would see kerbside waste and recycling collection services re-tendered to an external contractor, whilst the operation of the Sort It centres and materials handling would be brought ‘in house’ and undertaken by council staff.
The council will now ask potential providers to demonstrate how they would provide those services in a way that meets residents’ needs, drives up recycling rates, reduces the waste going to landfill and controls costs.
The hybrid option, to partially bring the existing service in-house and to re-tender the collections services, is the lowest cost option available, however current budget projections show that costs will continue to rise. In making their decision, the Cabinet also asked officers to explore ways to further reduce costs to the council and to report back in the autumn.
A range of options will be considered and community engagement will take place over the summer to hear about residents’ ideas for how the service can be improved and how the council can help them to recycle more.
Data shows that there is scope to significantly improve South Gloucestershire’s already impressive recycling rates, which most recently showed that 59.9 per cent of recyclable materials were diverted from landfill.
Food waste currently accounts for 12.5 per cent of waste in residents’ black bins, while soft plastics accounts for 33 per cent. So that is almost half (45 per cent) of black bin volume which could be taken out of black bins through increased recycling.
The council wants to make food waste recycling available to all homes in the district, which is currently not available in some flats, for example. Also, South Gloucestershire is currently taking part in a national pilot programme to collect soft plastics at the kerbside. The aim is to roll that out to all homes by the end of 2025. Taken together, these measures, as well as improving the use of existing recycling opportunities, would dramatically reduce the amount of waste in most people’s black bins.
In order to keep costs of delivering the new service to a minimum, if these improvements can be made, it could be possible to reduce the frequency that black bins are collected in South Gloucestershire to either three or four-weekly. No decisions have been made on this and the council is keen to listen to residents views before presenting options for future decisions.
The engagement that will begin this summer will help the council to understand what residents might feel the barriers to these changes might be, and how they can be supported to make the changes.
Other proposed options to reduce or to help the council cover the increasing costs of delivering waste services, which will be explored and discussed with residents in the coming months, include bringing the cost of a green bin subscription into line with neighbouring local authorities, for example.
Councillor Leigh Ingham, cabinet member with responsibility for waste services at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “We need a waste service that is fit for the future, which helps us meet our climate and environmental goals, and which is cost-effective for residents.
“Waste management services are evolving, with more and more materials being recyclable if local authorities make it easier for residents. We know, through initial findings from our soft plastics trial, that residents want to recycle as much as possible and therefore we can divert much more of what we throw away from landfill.
“Before we make any decisions, however, we want to talk with and listen to residents to make sure that we are considering the right alternatives. A series of conversations will start this summer. We encourage as many South Gloucestershire residents to engage with us as possible.”