Councillor Watkins introduced
the report and stated that the strategy had been developed by the
cross-party Waste Management Working Group (WMWG) which included
Councillor Fletcher as Chair; Councillor Byrne as Vice-Chair;
Councillor Muldowney; Councillor Ralph; Councillor Smith and
Councillor Van Day. He thanked those Members for their eighteen
months of hard work and delivery of the strategy. He stated that
the Waste Strategy had seen continued focus from opposition groups,
but the report had been through the cross-party Cleaner, Greener,
Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the WMWG.
Councillor Watkins explained that since 2014 recycling rates across the borough had been decreasing, and had decreased further since the start of the pandemic. He felt that the proposed Waste Strategy would help to increase recycling rates across the borough, and had been through a period of consultation, as well as communications via leaflet drops and a social housing pilot. He stated that the consultation had already helped to promote recycling across the borough, and this would be supported by the new waste contracts as the Council worked with the waste team to improve recycling, and reach the government target of 50% recycled waste by 2025. He stated that the WMWG had undertaken lots of detailed work including regular meetings, site visits, and had spent £30,000 on consultation. He explained that the WMWG had chosen option 2A, which Cabinet were being asked to endorse, and this involved a move to weekly recycling collections; bi-weekly refuse collections; and weekly food waste collections. He stated that the current recycling rate in Thurrock was only 33.86%, but this could rise to 54% with the introduction of the new measures. Councillor Watkins explained that as the recycling bin should be the fullest every week, accounting for roughly 64% of all rubbish; this would continue to be emptied on a weekly basis. He added that if any further collection changes were proposed then they would go through the WMWG, and the Cleaner, Greener and Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee, before coming before Cabinet for approval.
Councillor Watkins then moved onto explain the affect the proposals would have on the workforce and explained that if there were any decreases in the number of waste staff, this would go through a process of rigorous consultation, but that the current plan was to freeze recruitment on the thirteen vacant posts. He stated that the proposed Waste Strategy had no immediate effect on the number of waste staff, and described how more staff might be needed in future due to housing development across the borough potentially leading to the introduction of new waste routes. He explained the changes that had been undertaken since the October Cabinet meeting, and stated that the Waste Strategy remained the same, but questions had been answered in more detail and had been shared with Cabinet Members.
Councillor Watkins explained that the Waste Strategy, if agreed, would begin an eighteen month implementation period, and research undertaken by the WMWG showed that the implementation stage was very important to the success of recycling rates, and could lead to a wholesale recycling change across the borough. He felt that the majority of measures Thurrock Council had put in place up until now had had little or no impact on recycling rates, but that other Councils who had moved to a system similar to option 2A had seen recycling rates increase to approximately 60%.
Councillor Watkins described how residents would be informed of the changes to their collection, and £120,000 would be invested in these communications, which were outlined on page 51 of the agenda. He stated that the communications around the strategy would be ongoing, but if there were any changes in the policy, these would go before the WMWG and Cleaner, Greener and Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He stated that option 2B involved a charge for garden waste, but cross-party Members agreed that option 2A was better for residents and were therefore not proposing this new charge. He again stated that if there were any proposals involving 2B, these would go before the scrutiny committee.
Councillor Watkins summarised and stated that this strategy had been undertaken for the right reasons and all three parties had worked on this to ensure recycling rates improved across the borough and hoped they could continue to work together during the implementation stage. Councillor Watkins read out the recommendations being put to Cabinet and asked that recommendation 6c be removed as consultation had already been undertaken in early 2020 and £120,000 had been earmarked for the first year communications plan, with any problems going before the WMWG. Councillor Watkins instead proposed recommendation 7 which read “subject to the approval of 2A, which was agreed from the cross-party working group in recommendation 1.2, this Council commits to launching a borough-wide communications strategy to go forward to the Waste Management Working Group to demonstrate how £120,000 will be spent in the run up to the 2022 implementation” He thanked the staff and the WMWG for their commitment to recycling, and hard work even throughout the pandemic.
Councillor Halden thanked Councillor Watkins for his report and felt proud of the work that the cross-party WMWG had achieved. He stated that the proposed option research showed other Councils had adopted this strategy and improved recycling rates to over 50%. He added that there were also fringe tax-payer benefits to this scheme as the Council would receive fines if recycling targets were not met within the government deadline. He felt pleased that there had been cross-party support for the strategy, and felt glad to see that all parties were working together for the benefit of residents. He commented that he also felt pleased to see the communications strategy would include advice for people who needed to dispose of medical waste, and again thanked Councillor Watkins and his team for the report.
Councillor Hebb also thanked the WMWG for their collaboration shown on the strategy, and the conclusions they had reached. He stated that the world view on recycling was changing as manufacturers reduced the number of single-use plastics being used in packaging, which formed part of a global shift towards increased awareness of recycling. He thanked the waste team for their dedication to the job, as they were out in all weathers, and stated that the Council would work with them as the project moved towards implementation. Councillor Watkins added that these changes would affect all residents and stated that the team would work to answer any questions that residents might have on the scheme. He added that he hoped the recommendation would be agreed that would allow the WMWG to continue their good work.
The Leader thanked the WMWG for their work on the strategy and felt that there was an increasing national trend to move towards bi-weekly refuse collection and weekly recycling collection, and felt it had been proven to work elsewhere. He thanked Councillor Byrne for his idea regarding the reduction of single-use plastics and stated that services were already starting to implement this reduction across the Council. Councillor Maney asked if data regarding recycling at ward level could be found, as he felt recycling rates would vary dramatically across the borough. He felt that the recycling communications would need to be focussed, so areas with lower recycling rates could be targeted. The Leader agreed with this statement, and added that recycling in flats was particularly difficult, so this should be an area of focus. He stated that this would be fed through the scrutiny committee and the Director of Environment, Highways and Counter Fraud to see if this approach was possible.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
1. Agreed the new Waste Strategy, noting the input of the Waste Cross Party Working Group.
2. Reviewed the options relating to potential changes in the Waste Collection Service as proposed by the Cleaner, Greener and Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and agreed option 2A from the table in 2.3.7 of this report.
3. Engaged with the Cleaner, Greener and Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider a charge for garden waste service with a view that any recommendation be subject to a future report to Cabinet.
4. Delegated authority for the re-procurement and/or extension of the Waste Disposal contracts to the Corporate Director of Finance, Governance and Property and the Director of Environment, Highways and Counter-Fraud, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Environment, Sports and Leisure.
5. Delegated authority for the procurement of waste containers, collection vehicles and communication materials to facilitate the change in collection to the Corporate Director of Finance, Governance and Property and the Director of Environment, Highways and Counter Fraud, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Environment, Sports and Leisure.
6. Considered and agreed the recommendations of the Cleaner, Greener and Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee:
6a. That the Cross Party Working Group continue to have a role in reviewing the progress of the implementation of the Waste Strategy.
6b. That Thurrock Council lead by example and act to reduce and where possible eliminate single use plastics.
7. Subject to the approval of 2A, which was agreed from the cross-party working group in recommendation 2, this Council commits to launching a borough-wide communications strategy to go forward to the Waste Management Working Group to demonstrate how £120,000 will be spent in the run up to the 2022 implementation.
Reason for decision: as outlined in the report
This decision is subject to call-in