Recycling at the heart of changes to waste management in South Glos

An image representing the average contents of a South Gloucestershire black bin (by volume) based on waste analysis completed in 2022.

The way waste and recyclable materials are collected and disposed of will change in the coming years, with more recycling at the kerbside, leading to less waste in household black bins, which can then be collected less frequently.

While South Gloucestershire currently has one of the highest recycling rates in England, we know that currently around a third of the contents of the average black bin in the district contains rubbish that could be recycled through existing kerbside collections. Also, new opportunities to recycle more materials such as flexible plastics are now widely available in supermarkets and, following a successful trial, will soon be rolled out to more homes in South Gloucestershire. When new and extended kerbside recycling is fully rolled out, up to two thirds of what is currently being placed in the average black bin will be recyclable from home.

The Cabinet received an update on progress towards awarding a new contract for kerbside collections in the district at their meeting on Monday 11 March. They agreed a number of features of the contract and following negotiations, final bids are expected in the summer before a decision in October this year to appoint the successful contractor.

Key features of the new arrangements include:

  • Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) – known as Sort It Centres – will come in-house and be council operated.
  • Household kerbside collections, of residual and garden waste and recycling will be run by the new contractor.
  • The new contractor will take up the collections service from August 2025.
  • More homes will benefit from kerbside recycling, including the expansion of the collection of food waste from flats.
  • The current flexible plastic kerbside collections trial will be extended to include approximately 20 per cent of homes in South Gloucestershire during May this year. Homes in the new collection areas will receive details of how the scheme will work in the coming weeks.
  • Under the new contract, black bin collections will initially remain the same, but bidders are being asked to submit costs for fortnightly as well as three-weekly collections of residual waste.
  • Changes to the frequency of collections for black bins will only be made after steps have been taken to recycle more materials from the kerbside, such as flexible plastics, which will have reduced the amount of waste being placed in people’s black bins.

South Gloucestershire Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for waste and recycling services, Cllr Leigh Ingham, said: “South Gloucestershire can be cleaner and greener. We can recycle more and send less waste for disposal via Energy from Waste or landfill, especially materials that could be easily recycled.

“As we work towards awarding a new contract for waste management in the area, we have the opportunity to make these improvements, and help to manage the ever-increasing costs of running these services.

“Our aim is to make recycling easier for everyone and by doing that, there will be less rubbish needing to go in people’s black bins. We will continue to talk and listen to residents about changes, and support is always available for those who need it, whether by collecting nappies or medical waste for a period, or through assisted collections for people with mobility issues.

“We can do these things and the benefits to our environment and our budget, will be lasting for all of us.”

Other changes to waste management in South Gloucestershire are coming a little sooner. The Government now requires all local authorities to regulate the disposal of household DIY waste, and the easiest and most cost-effective way to do this is by introducing a booking system. This will help to stop people from outside the area disposing of their waste in our Sort It Centres and commercial waste, which costs our residents significant amounts of money to dispose of.

More than 40 per cent of local authorities already have a booking system in place, including Bristol, Bath and Gloucestershire councils, delivering benefits to residents’ experience including less queueing, making visits quicker. The booking system will be introduced during 2024.

Costs to run council services such as waste management are continuing to increase and, whilst we expect to agree a good value contract with our new providers, we still currently expect there to be a shortfall of between £3-5 million. Moving to three-weekly black bin collections, once increased recycling rates have reduced what households need to put in them, is expected to save at least £1 million per year, and more work is underway to find ways to eliminate this funding gap and we have already taken some decisions that have reduced the cost of operating the service.

For example, the new council budget agreed earlier this year to increase the cost of the garden waste service subscription from £30 to £60 per year. This cost had been artificially held back from increases to other council fees and charges for several years, which meant the service was effectively being heavily subsidised by all council taxpayers. The new subscription level will help the service to pay for itself, funded by the residents who use it. We will continue to provide a reduction in the charge for those residents on certain types of benefits.

Councillor Ingham added: “Taken together, these measures will help South Gloucestershire provide value for money for residents and reduce our impact on our local environment and on the wider world around us.

“We recognise that some of the changes will mean people have to adapt, but we will support those who need help through these changes.

“There isn’t evidence from other local authorities that these changes will increase fly-tipping. The ways to dispose of waste and recycle will be really clear and as simple as possible for residents and I know that overwhelmingly local people will not resort to illegal activity as we work towards making our area cleaner and greener. Anyone who does fly tip can expect to be prosecuted and we have an excellent success rate when we take action against people who seek to spoil our communities by illegally dumping waste.”