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Bin collection changes FAQs

Following our announcement on Wednesday 26 October 2022 that we will be moving to three-weekly waste collections in 2025 we have prepared some answers to the frequently asked questions we’ve been asked.

Why was I not made aware of the Waste and Recycling consultation? / Why was the consultation only published online?

The consultation ran from 22 July to 22 August and was communicated on a regular basis during that time through our e-newsletter, on our website, across our social media channels and a press release sent to all local press on 22 July which was featured in The Comet on the 28 July. The consultation was also discussed at the Extraordinary Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 28 September. The minutes of this meeting can be found here.

Why were the results of the consultation not published?

The results on the consultation were published on our website ahead of the Extraordinary, Overview and Scrutiny meeting on Wednesday 28 September 2022. They were also included in the minutes of the same meeting. The results can be found here.

They were further published as part of papers for our Extraordinary Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 25 October 2022.

Why are you considering three-weekly collections for general waste?

The short answer is to reduce the amount of waste we collect which is not recycled. The changes will also reduce the cost of service provision and mitigate our carbon emissions and help us fight climate change.

  • Recycling more: Research shows that extending the frequency of general waste collections would encourage people to recycle more and in turn reduce what we send to landfill.
  • Reducing carbon emissions to fight climate change: The council declared a climate emergency in May 2019 and we have set a target for the council to become carbon neutral by 2030, and the district by 2040. Fewer vehicles and miles would be needed for 17 collections a year as opposed to 26, reducing our carbon emissions by an estimated 60 tonnes, which is equivalent to driving over 100,000 miles in an average car. Reducing carbon emissions will also result in cleaner and better air quality.
  • Saving money: In the current landscape of rising energy costs, inflation and other pressures on our budgets, it is predicted that three-weekly collections, instead of the current fortnightly cycle, would mitigate costs rising by around £270k a year. This is a substantial saving and will help mitigate against a rise in council tax.

Are you the first council to consider three-weekly collections?

No, an increasing number of councils in England, Scotland and Wales already have three-weekly collections for general waste, with some in Wales and Scotland having monthly collections.

Won’t this lead to an increase in fly-tipping?

There is never an excuse for fly-tipping, and we have no reason to believe that residents will start breaking the law in this way. Items most commonly fly-tipped are bulky items or trade waste, neither of which are collected as part of our collection service. We are confident that with added recycling options at the kerbside, more information to encourage recycling, and support in place for larger households.

Won’t three-weekly collections attract vermin and other pests?

There is no evidence to suggest that residents would see an increase in vermin or other pests, especially as food waste would still be collected every week. We will have support in place for households that need it, such as those living in larger households, those with multiple children using disposable nappies or people with other special waste needs.

When are three-weekly collections due to start?

Spring 2025 when the current waste collection contract (which we share with East Herts) ends.

How did you come up with the proposal for three-weekly collections?

As mentioned, we need to reduce our carbon emissions to help fight climate change and save money in the current landscape of rises costs and find savings to mitigate against increasing council tax.

Local councillors from all political parties from North Herts and East Herts Councils were involved in a series of workshops to help shape the proposals. We also used the results of a recent public consultation about residents’ recycling habits which found:

  • Nearly half (49%) of respondents’ purple bins (for general waste) are either half-full or quarter-full when it’s time to be collected – 18 people told us their bin was empty!
  • 84% of respondents agreed the council should do more to make people recycle more and reduce waste and 74% of residents agreed the council should invest in or change services to reduce its carbon footprint.
  • 76% of respondents said ‘I care about the environment and climate change and do my bit’.

Are there any other changes proposed?

We are also proposing to include plastic film/wrap also known as soft plastic in your grey recycling bin from 2025, which will further reduce waste in your purple bin for general waste. This can’t currently be recycled at the kerbside but is accepted for recycling at some supermarkets.

What evidence is there that less frequent collections reduce waste?

Daventry District Council adopted a three-weekly general waste service in 2018 and have had the highest fall in general waste of any local authority in the country at a drop of 13%. This table shows the waste reduction of three local authorities in Wales:

Residual Waste Service Frequency: 4 weekly. Authority: Conway. Year: 20/21. Recycling rate (%): 70. Waste Arisings per person (Kgs): 452. Percentage Drop in Per person Waste Arisings (kgs): 18.2%. Residual Waste Per Person (kgs): 135. % decrease Residual Waste: 43.98%. Residual Waste Service Frequency: 3 weekly in 2016 and 4 weekly in Jan 18. Year: 13/14. Recycling rate (%): 56. Waste Arisings per person (kgs): 552. Residual Waste Per Person (kgs): 241. Residual waste Service Frequency 3 weekly: Gwynedd: 20/21. Recycling rate (%): 65. Waste Arisings per person (kgs) 494. Percentage Drop in Per Person Waste Arisings (Kgs): 21.71%. Residual Waste Per Person (kgs):117. % decrease Residual Waste: 59.65%. Year: 13/14. Recycling rate (%): 54. Waste Arisings per person (kgs): 631. Residual Waste Per Person (kgs): 290. Residual Waste Service Frequency: 3 weekly. Authority: Pembrokeshire. Year: 20/21. Recycling rate (%): 73. Waste Arisings per person (kgs)  455. Percentage Drop in Per Person Waste Arisings (kgs): 17.12%. Residual Waste Per Person (kgs): 112. % decrease Residual Waste: 48.62%. Year: 13/14. Recycling Rate (%): 60. Waste Arisings Per Person (kgs): 549. Residual Waste Per Person (kgs): 218.

Does this mean we will be getting a larger purple bin?

Your current general waste bin will be the same one used for the start of the three-weekly collections in 2025. This will encourage more recycling as our waste composition shows a significant proportion of general waste is made up of recycling and food waste which should be placed in other bins. We will also start taking plastic film/wrap often known as soft plastic in your grey recycling bin from 2025, which will greatly reduce the volume of general waste in the purple bin.

What special consideration/support will be given to large families?

More details on our policies will be finalised over the coming months, however households which produce large quantities of incontinence waste or nappies will be eligible for fortnightly collections. We will be reviewing our policy around extra capacity for larger households; under our current policy these households receive a larger bin.

How will this work for flats with one communal bin that fills up and overflows by the end of the week?

The frequency of waste collections for residents in flats will not be changing.

What can I do to reduce waste?

Reducing waste is linked to what you buy and the packaging that items are contained in. To truly reduce waste then buying only necessary items and items with less packaging is part of our challenge of reducing waste. For the waste that you do produce check out our recycling A-Z on our website to ensure you are recycling all you can. To create more space in your recycling (grey bin) – wash and squash plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays, cartons and tins, and break cardboard down to make more room in your recycling bin. You can also recycle a number of items at local drop-off points with Terracycle, such as toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes and dental care, makeup and Pringle tubes.

Food – try to plan your meals around what needs using up and don’t forget to freeze leftovers and excess fresh ingredients – check out Love food, Hate waste. Put any food waste, including meat and bones, as well as peelings, in your food waste caddy.

Paper – if you haven’t got one please request a blue box specifically for paper, which is much better than putting it in your grey bin with other recycling, even a small amount of food residue on recycling makes paper less easy to recycle.

Textiles – any unwanted clothes, shoes, towels, bedsheets etc – even damaged – can be taken to your local charity shop or clothes bank. Please keep damaged items separate and label as ‘rags’. Check with your local shop which are happy to take rags, some animal shelters will also take old bedding.

Soft plastics – plastic film/wrap like bags, crisp packets and wrappers, can be recycled at a number of supermarkets.

Local tip – check what you can recycle at your local Herts recycling centre such as coat hangers and old plastic garden furniture.

You could also check out Herts Sustainable Periods and Herts Reusable Nappies.

What should I do with excess waste?

We don’t expect excess waste to be a regular problem for the average household and will have support in place for households that need it, such as those living in larger households, those with multiple children using disposable nappies or people with other special waste needs.

If you have extra recycling, for example after a party, you can place this out for recycling next to your grey bin, either in a reusable box (which collection crews will return) or in a recyclable cardboard box or paper bag.