Exeter Board | Recycling rates in Exeter

The Exeter Board, at its meeting of 31 January 2013, considered the following report

Recycling Rates in the City 
Joint Report of the Assistant Director – Environment (Exeter City Council) and the Head of Capital Development and Waste Management (Devon County Council)

Please note that the following recommendation is subject to consideration and determination by the Committee before taking effect. 

Recommendation: It is recommended that Members note the content of the report, acknowledge the progress made to date on recycling within the city and in particular note the relatively low waste produced per head of population and support the proposed future actions. 

1. Purpose of the Report and Executive Summary 
This report for the Exeter Board reviews recycling rates in Exeter, including:
– the general policy on recycling and composting;
– comparison with other Devon authorities and other councils in Exeter’s benchmarking group;
– reasons for differences in performance; and
– actions to address this.

Exeter performs well in having low overall waste arising in comparison with other authorities. It also performs highly in the percentage of waste sent for ‘dry’ recycling (materials such as plastic, paper, card, metal and glass).

Exeter’s overall rate of waste recycled and composted is 36% (or 47% if the performance of the Recycling Centres is included). Although this is low compared to other Councils in Devon and in Exeter’s benchmarking group, this is largely due to Exeter not having a separate food waste collection, its policy of charging for garden waste collection in preference to a free collection service and the urban nature of the city. These factors combine to reduce the availability of organic waste that is collected.

Current actions to improve Exeter’s recycling performance will focus on increasing participation in the existing schemes and reducing contamination of the materials collected for recycling. The Council will also consider the merits of introducing a separate collection of food waste if it becomes cost-effective to do so, but it currently relies upon placing an emphasis on food waste minimisation and home-composting

2. Background/Introduction 
In 2011/12 36,085 tonnes of household waste was collected by Exeter City Council with a further 12,248 tonnes managed through the Recycling Centres. Of the waste collected by Exeter City 2,735 tonnes were garden waste, 10,326 tonnes were ‘dry’ recyclables and 23,023 tonnes were residual waste. Of the waste managed at the Recycling Centres, 9,696 tonnes were recycled.

Exeter City Council is the Waste Collection Authority (WCA) for Exeter and has responsibility to arrange and manage recycling and composting programmes for household waste collected in Exeter. The avoided disposal cost of material diverted from landfill by or through the recycling activities of the City Council is claimed as a recycling credit from Devon County Council (DCC) as the Waste Disposal Authority (WDA). Item 8

During 2011/12 just over £574,000 was claimed from the WDA for recycling of materials carried out directly by the City Council. This income was used to support the costs of recycling and waste activities. A further £45,500 was claimed by the voluntary groups for the material they collected, which adds to the total recycled in Exeter. Sales of materials from the Material Reclamation Facility and bring banks raised approximately £965,000; this was despite the continuing economic down-turn which has affected consumer purchasing and reduced the amount of packaging available for recycling.

The County Council as WDA operates two Recycling Centres within the city boundaries, these being Exton Road and Pinbrook Road. The £3.5 million new site at Pinbrook Road was opened in June 2011 and serves the eastern part of the city and surrounding hinterland, with Exton Road serving the western part of the city. Exton Road was expanded and refurbished in 2011. These two sites managed 12,250 tonnes of waste in 2011/12, of which 80% was recycled.

3. Policy 
Exeter’s policy is to maximise the quantity and quality of dry recycling collected co-mingled at the kerbside and to process it through the Council’s MRF. This includes: paper, card, steel and aluminium cans, aerosols, and all types of household plastic containers, (bottles, food trays, wraps and bags).

Glass is collected via an extensive system of bring banks as the MRF is not designed to process it mixed with other materials. Additional bring banks for textiles, books/CDs, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, batteries and shoes are provided and serviced by charities and other organisations.

The majority of the city has alternate weekly collections of dry recycling and refuse in 240 litre wheeled bins. The inner city, (5,000 properties) have weekly collections of refuse in black bags and fortnightly collections of recycling in clear plastic bags. Large households have extra refuse allowance.

Garden waste is collected by a subscription-only service in either a 240 litre wheeled bin or a bio-degradable sack. The number of households subscribing to the service has increased steadily, reaching 7,151 in 2011/12. Charging for garden waste has two benefits: the service is paid for only by the people who use it, and it avoids the collection of green waste that can otherwise be dealt with by home composting or taken to a recycling centre.

There is currently no separate collection of food waste in Exeter. This is discussed more fully in Section 4.

Home composting is encouraged through the promotion of composting bins and wormeries at cost price.

There is a comprehensive range of recycling available at the two recycling centres which has been extended with the introduction of mattresses, carpets and hard plastics as a result of the new contract with SITA that started in May 2012.

Exeter City Council operates a successful trade waste recycling collection from approximately 500 customers. About 400 tonnes of good quality recycling is collected per annum (this is not counted in Exeter’s household recycling rate).

Further information can be found at http://www.exeter.gov.uk/recycling

4. Recycling Rate and Waste Arisings 
Exeter is maintaining a steady recycling rate. Although the continuing downturn in the economy and the consequent reduction in consumption produced fewer materials to collect and process, the recycling rate is maintained as there is also a corresponding reduction of waste sent to landfill.

Table 1 05/6  06/7  07/8  08/9  09/10  10/11  11/12 
ECC recycling & composting rate % 30.04 33.86 *35.81 *36.2 *36.2 *36.9 *36.2%

*From Waste Data Flow – this varies slightly from the DAWWRC statistics due to different accounting systems for the MRF stockpile. 

When compared against similar-size local authorities in the Exeter comparator bench marking group (Graphs 1 & 2, Appendix I), it appears that the relatively high dry recycling rate reflects the efficiency of the co-mingled collection in wheeled bins and the wide variety of materials collected. Exeter also has a high dry recycling rate compared to most other Devon districts (Graph 3).

The low composting percentage is a direct result of Exeter’s policy on charging for garden waste collection, rather than offering a free service for all. The composting rate is also affected by the amount of leaves that are collected during the year, as this is included in the composting total – some rural districts collect significantly more than others.

However, when the two indices are combined, this results in a low overall recycling rate when compared with the rest of Devon (Graph 4). It is clear that the main difference between the districts is due to the organic collections, with garden waste in particular adding large tonnages to the overall recycling rate. (Graph 5). Exeter is the only district that does not collect food waste, thus further reducing the tonnage collected for composting/digestion and increasing the differences in the combined recycling rate.

The following excerpt from the DAWWRC 2011- 12 report shows that ‘whilst Waste Collection Authorities’ (WCA) recycling rates in isolation indicate the public’s use of WCA facilities such as kerbside schemes or recycling banks, some residents use a combination of WCA schemes and recycling centres to deal with their household waste. Table 2 compares ‘WCA activity only’ with the combined efforts of ‘WCA services and Recycling Centres’. This table shows a lesser variance between authorities in overall rates suggesting that household participation is broadly in line for all authorities. This data illustrates a narrower range of between 47.1% and 63.2%. 

Screen shot 2016-03-29 at 06.07.29
Household Recycling Rates for Devon’s WCAs

It can be seen from the above graph that when the total level of recycling within the city is considered regardless of facilities which are used (bring bank, kerbside or recycling centre), Exeter recycled 47% in 2011/12. This compares more favourably with some other Districts within Devon.

There are currently no local recycling targets but the UK as a whole is committed to achieving a 50% recycling rate by 2020 as set out in the EU revised Waste Framework Directive 2010. In addition the Municipal Waste Management Strategy for Devon Review sets targets of 60% by 2015 and 65% by 2025.

Exeter’s contribution to achieving this is a local aspiration target of 39% by 2014/15 (Table 3 below).

Screen shot 2016-03-29 at 06.07.37

The 2011/12 target was missed by 0.8% and it is unlikely that the 2012/13 target will be achieved based on results to date this year. As outlined above the recession has had a large impact on the amount of packaging available for recycling, which when combined with the trend for lightweight packaging, produces less total weight Although the amount of customers on the Garden Waste Collection Scheme continues to increase and it remains a profitable service, the amount of garden waste collected and composted remains virtually constant and (Graph 6) shows that the amount of dry recyclables collected from the kerbside is steadily reducing. Under these circumstances increasing the recycling rate remains a challenge.

The system of using National Indicators (NI) to report waste statistics became obsolete on 1 April 2011, although NI’s remain for other areas of local government. Waste NI’s were used to record the percentage of household waste sent for reuse/recycling/composting (NI192) and the residual waste kg per household (NI 192). These statistics are still available through Waste Data Flow and continue to provide a useful tool to LA’s to monitor their progress at a local level.

The reasons for the reduction in kerbside dry recycling tonnages include:
‘Light weighting’ of packages – all packaging companies are aiming to reduce their carbon footprint and one way this can be achieved is to make the packaging lighter. This saves money and carbon on transport as well as production costs.
Paper represents about 60% of the total tonnage sent for recycling. There has been a strong downward trend for paper tonnages during the last three years (Graph 8). This could be due to increased use of the intranet for daily news, and a reduction in the purchasing of magazines, newspapers, etc. due to the economic downturn.
Waste Minimisation – the effectiveness of both national and the local ‘Don’t let Devon go to waste’ awareness campaigns to encourage reduction of all types of waste are having impact it is believed. In addition residents do need to be reminded of what materials can be recycled and to be encouraged to do the right thing.

Food waste collection 
Exeter City is the only WCA in Devon not to collect food waste at the kerbside. There are a number of reasons why this has not been pursued to date, the overriding one being the cost of introducing a separate food waste collection. Other WCAs in Devon have benefited from Government funding in the past to support organic collection but this funding is no longer available. A partnership bid with the County Council to the recent £250 million DCLG fund was considered to support the introduction of food waste collections but this was not submitted as there were concerns as to how the scheme would continue to be funded once Government support ceased. It is unlikely that the scheme would have received funding as only those Councils who were offering a weekly residual waste collection received any Government support.

The cost of introducing a food waste collection is estimated to be in the region of an initial setup cost of £1.1 million capital and annual revenue cost of £1m in the first year and £0.6m thereafter.

Although the introduction of a food waste collection is not being considered in the short term, the viability of such an option will be kept under review. Based on an average collection of 1.7kg/household/week this would equate to approximately 4,600 tonnes per year which would yield an increase of approx 12% on the current recycling rate.

The Exeter Energy from Waste (Efw) plant is progressing well and is due to become operational in June 2014; from that point Exeter’s residual waste will be recovered and no longer go to landfill.

Waste arising 
Total waste arising is an important indicator of the success of waste prevention measures, the top of the Waste Hierarchy. Reducing overall waste (both recycling and landfill waste) reduces the amount of carbon produced and resources used; both of these are important indicators on the road to a sustainable society.

Exeter’s total waste arising kg/head of population has fallen from 335.6 in 2006/7 to 301kg in 2011/12. It is the second lowest in Devon (Graph 7) and the 7th lowest in England. Graph 8 shows it is similarly well placed within the bench marking group. This is in part due to the low levels of garden waste collected which keeps the overall tonnage per head and per household lower than districts which ‘grew’ their waste stream by offering free collections.

Exeter ranks 5th in Devon based on kg residual waste/household (National Indicator 191) as it has comparatively less houses per capita compared to the more rural districts.

5. Further Activities to Improve Recycling Performance 

Schools and students 
A free recycling service continues to be offered to all schools within Exeter. In addition to the actual collection of materials, the Council also provides an educational support service to all participating schools and colleges, including education visits and targeted communications and use of the MRF training room.

The Green Team initiative set up in partnership with the Express and Echo and Gregory Distribution Company has proven to be a successful way of engaging school-children and it has sponsorship for a further year.

The Recycling Department has been working with the University’s Community Liaison Officer in developing better tailored information for students about refuse and recycling collection.

Third Party recycling and material buy in 
Charities, community and voluntary groups continue to collect a significant amount of recyclable materials in the City every year. In 2011/12 this was a total 904 tonnes, representing about 7% of the recycling rate. The Council continues to purchase such material directly from groups and also pays recycling credits to reflect the saving in disposal costs.

Enforcement/Education Officer 
The Enforcement/Education Officer continues to address the issue of contaminated recycling reported by the collection crews. The introduction of the ‘in-cab’ technology in the collection vehicles has made this more accurate and efficient. Problems are initially addressed with a letter explaining the recycling system in Exeter; if the problem continues a visit to the resident follows. By this method contamination levels have been maintained at a relatively low level.

Communications and events 
Communicating the message on recycling and waste minimisation to residents and businesses is an important tool to engender changed behaviour. Graph 10 of the appendix shows there is still a significant amount of materials in the landfill bin which could be recycled. Roadshows, attendance at community events, promoting ‘Don’t let Devon go to waste’ initiatives including social media; and conducting MRF tours all help to get the messages across to the wider community.

The key areas that will be focussed on for 2013/14 and beyond are to:
-maintain the recycling rate as the economic climate continues to affect purchasing choices and companies strive to reduce the weight of their packaging;
-continue to address the clinical waste contamination in the MRF;
– continue to encourage waste minimisation to reduce the amount of waste being produced, and focus on reducing the larger fractions in landfill waste, especially food waste;
– increase the quality of materials collected for recycling by continuing to reduce the contamination levels;
– maintain a high-quality collection service, taking into account rising fuel costs and the financial pressures on Exeter City Council;
– base education drives on sound information from surveys and collection data including using the information from the residual waste survey;
– increase the range of materials collected at the refreshed bring bank sites, and enhance customer use.
– promote compost bin use in early Spring 2013 and another in early Summer.

6. Reason for Recommendation/Conclusion 
Recycling rates within the city have stabilised at around 37% with a target set to achieve 40% by 2015. Actions are being proposed to work towards this target and the City and County Council will continue to work closely together in this respect.

Robert Norley
Assistant Director – Environment (Exeter City Council)

David Whitton
Head of Capital Development and Waste Management

Electoral Divisions: All Exeter City wards 

Local Government Act 1972: List of Background Papers

Contact for enquiries:
Wendy Barratt, Devon County Council,Room No. Room 21, Matford Offices, County Hall, Exeter; and
Simon Hill, Exeter City Council, Civic Centre, Paris Street, Exeter

Background Papers
DateFile Reference
1.Details on File [January 2006 to April 2007] EXM/567
2.DAWRRC Stats report [June 2012]

Graph 1

Graph 2

Graph 3

Graph 4

Graph 5

Graph 6

Graph 7

Graph 8

Graph 9

Graph 10

The minutes of the meeting note:

*29 Recycling Rates in the City
The Board considered the joint report of the Head of Capital Development and Waste Management (Devon County Council) and the Assistant Director Environment (Exeter City Council) (CDW/13/1 – text only | pdf ) on recycling rates in Exeter, general policy on recycling and composting, comparisons with other Devon authorities and other Council s in Exeter s benchmarking group, reasons for differences in performance; and actions to address these differences.

Members discussion points with the officers included:

  • the reasons for the differences of the City compared with the Devon District Councils (relating primarily to their rural nature) and the very favourable comparisons with other comparable cities nationally; the City also performed well in the level of waste produced per capita
  • the limited cost benefit advantages of a dedicated food waste collection service currently under review acknowledging the current cost and limited resources available made it prohibitive at this stage;
  • the current level of weekly collections in the City for certain areas and the need to review more roads for this for example in and around Roberts Road, St Leonards
  • the impact of the new impending Waste to Energy plant in Exeter using the City s waste, diverting it from landfill and proposals for development of a community heating project; the new plant would not impact on recycling rates however;
  • the need for more education in relating to minimising food waste and proper utilisation of green bins especially in respect of the student population in the city; and the need for easy to read or pictorial promotional material;
  • the limited evidence relating to any increase in tipping rates arising from additional charges at the recycling centres. This was however under review and more information would be available in due course.
  • a suggestion that this interesting and informative report should be referred to the City Council s Community Services Scrutiny Committee.

The Committee noted the promotion and support by the Members Funding Group in respect of the subsidy for benefit recipients on the price charged for the bulky waste scheme operated by Exeter City Council. This would, it was hoped, also help alleviate the problem of fly tipping in the City.

It was MOVED by Councillor Leadbetter, SECONDED by Councillor Sutton and
RESOLVED that the content of the report and progress made to date on recycling within the City and in particular the relatively low waste produced per head of population be noted and that the proposed future actions be endorsed.


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