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Partnership warns new waste strategy could cost millions

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A waste partnership has warned that proposals on harmonised household collections and other policies in the Government’s resources and waste strategy are misconceived and will cost it up to £6.3m.

A board report for Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) – which comprises Somerset County Council and its five districts – said the proposed free garden waste collections alone could cost £6m a year based on lost income, diversion from recycling centres and increased collection costs, and might also deter home composting and affect the viability of recycling centres.

A deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers could cost anything from £43,000 to £238,000 a year depending on whether this was ‘on-the-go’ or ‘all-in’, LGC’s sister title Materials Recycling World reports.

The SWP also feared that while extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging was supposed to give full net cost recovery for local authorities, a proposal to use funding formulae “may mean that this doesn’t truly cover costs”.

This is because the formula would pay each local authority according to which of six categories it was placed in rather than its actual costs.

The costs of mandatory separate weekly food waste collections were unclear because bespoke solutions might be needed in communal properties.

The partnership said it had “serious concerns” about the proposal for statutory minimum standards for collections, including a fortnightly frequency.

“All the evidence demonstrates that moving to three-weekly refuse will support the SWP in collecting even more high-quality recyclate and reducing avoidable waste,” the report said.

“There is no evidence to support the Government’s proposal, it is inconsistent with their own policy goals (zero avoidable waste by 2050) and will lead to producers paying more than is necessary under EPR.”

Further alarm was caused by the idea that council funding from EPR for packaging “could be subject to meeting a minimum standard of refuse collection every two weeks at most”.

Mandatory collections would be the focus of the SWP’s lobbying efforts, along with free garden waste collections, a proposal the report said failed to take account of those who might consequently cease home composting or take less to recycling centres.

It said: “Our impression is that this is a Government simply chasing weight-based targets and not focusing on what is the environmentally right thing to do.”

Places such as Somerset with high recycling rates would be “clear losers” from a drinks container DRS which, if it went ahead, should be a UK-wide on-the-go scheme focused on tackling litter.

The report said the alternative all-in scheme could cost the SWP £2.5m over 10 years because there would be cost implications to having vehicles designed to collect materials diverted to it, kerbside sorting would become more expensive and there was a risk of duplication with the packaging producer responsibility scheme, with two complex administration regimes.

Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee chief executive Lee Marshall said his organisation was still sounding out members on responses, but “there is clear concern about free food and garden waste collections”.

The consultations launched by the strategy run until 13 May.

The SWP was highlighted in the strategy for its multi-stream collection of dry alongside separate weekly food waste collections and consistent kerbside sort across the county, from which 52% of waste was recycled.

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