#ECCcommunity | Recycling Action Plan 2016/17

The meeting Scrutiny Committee: Community held on 01 March 2016 considered the report of the Assistant Director Environment.

Appendix 1 provided the detail of the delivery programme for the year ahead.

Appendix 1: Recycling Team Action Plan 2016/17 

Exeter’s recycling rate has plateaued at around 34% over recent years, which is well below the current UK average of 44%. The reasons for Exeter’s low recycling rate relative to the rest of the UK include:
– Lack of a separate food waste collection suppresses our recycling rate by 8 percentage points
– The nature of Exeter’s urban housing stock means there is less garden waste available for separate collection
– For single-tier district councils such as Exeter, the tonnage of waste managed at Civic Amenity Recycling Centres does not count towards the recycling rate.
– Recycling education and awareness efforts have not increased in recent years. The Council’s recycling team has reduced from six to three FTEs and in 2014 and 2015 these resources were partially diverted to the reorganisation of waste collection rounds. This had little impact on recycling rates but has ‘future proofed’ the Waste Operations service by enabling us to accommodate the projected growth in household numbers for the next three years with existing resources

It is encouraging that in 2014/15, Exeter ranked 20th lowest out of 229 English local authorities for the total amount of waste produced per head, at 304kg per year (former BVPI184a). This indicates that we have been successful in minimising the amount of waste produced in the first place, which ranks above recycling in the waste hierarchy (“reduce-reuse-recycle”). It vindicates policies such as alternate weekly recycling /rubbish collections, charging for the collection of garden waste and applying a ‘no side waste’ policy alongside provision of appropriately-sized rubbish containers.

Measures to taken to implement the waste hierarchy since 2014: 
– Extended fortnightly rubbish collections to 92% of the city. We have retained weekly rubbish collections only where lack of physical space makes this essential
– Extended the ‘no side waste’ policy to include excess waste placed on top of rubbish bins
– Revised the allocation of rubbish bin size so that the majority of Exeter residents are now provided with 140 or 180 litres’ capacity instead of 240
– Exeter’s residual waste is now treated at the Energy from Waste plant in Marsh Barton, meaning that none of the city’s waste goes to landfill
– Established the regular use of web-based communications to promote recycling (gov delivery newsletter, Twitter)
– Installed mini-bottle banks at six new sites in areas of high population density
– Liaison with social housing, property managers and the University to improve communication, correct provision of accessible containers and recycling yield, however there is scope for increased and more targeted work in these areas.

Grey Bin Analysis 2013 
The 2012 bin audit conducted by Jacobs on behalf of Devon County Council examined the contents of the average Exeter grey bin and found that over a quarter of this material could have been recycled using existing schemes, and a further 35% is food waste.

The report showed that on average 35% of the weight of rubbish bins comprises kitchen organics. It is not currently financially viable to introduce a food waste collection service, but even where there is one, it does not always result in high householder engagement and can increase waste arisings rather than focusing on the individual, regional and global benefits of food waste reduction. ECC promotes food waste reduction by endorsing WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign and Exeter Food Hub; and by selling reduced price composters for uncooked kitchen waste. The methods for reducing food waste include better storage to make food last longer, better menu planning to reduce unused items going to waste and using up leftovers. The environmental benefit of food waste reduction is a direct reduction in the emissions released by decaying stored or composted food. The financial implications are a saving on Devon County Council’s disposal costs, which can benefit other services in Devon – and there can also be financial benefits to the individual householder in terms shopping and using food more efficiently. A decrease in food put in the rubbish bin should also increase the recycling rate for Exeter.

Exeter is among the few Waste Collection Authorities to collect all household plastics – including pots, tubs, trays and film, and items labelled “cannot be recycled”. In spite of this, the bin analysis showed an average of 11% of the rubbish weight being plastic. The results on the percentage of different types of plastics in both the rubbish and recycling bins showed that of all the plastic thrown away we captured 68% HDPE bottles and 73% other plastic bottles for recycling, but only 13% film and 38% non-bottle plastic packaging. This would suggest that people are recycling plastic bottles but disposing of other plastics. This is also reflected in anecdotal evidence from people we spoke to at community events and student door knocking during Fresher’s Week. Even the more environmentally aware residents seem to be missing the “all plastics” message. A series of campaigns to raise awareness, particularly in low performance areas, should help to resolve this and have a positive effect on the recycling rate. We have already set up a display at the Customer Services centre of the Civic Centre, attached to a GovDelivery promotional hessian bags giveaway for the introduction of the bag tax.

One of the more confusing outcomes from the analysis was the low capture rate for steel (46%) and aluminium (30%) cans. Aluminium is one of the highest priced commodities that Exeter extracts and sells at the Material Reclamation Facility. In spite of cans and tins being traditionally recyclable, compared to the relatively recent plastics market, 70% of the aluminium cans thrown away by Exeter residents end up being sent to the Energy Recovery Facility for incineration. Given the high capture rates for pulpables and plastic bottles, this seems illogical. One reason is that cans are more likely to be disposed of “on the go” and so end up as litter or in street bins, which are weak areas in terms of extracting recyclables in Exeter. Attempts to introduce on-street recycling have not proved successful in the past, but the recycling bins put in place were not particularly easy to identify. Most major cities and tourist towns have on-street recycling.

The capture rate for pulpables is above the UK average at 86% for paper and 80% for card, and constituting only 9% of the rubbish bin contents. This demonstrates good recycling behaviour, thus successful communications of the pulpables message. Exeter has a reputation for delivering high grade paper for reprocessing. The exception is around Christmas when there is a high volume of metallic and glittery paper. This should be considered with Christmas specific communications.

Another indicator for good recycling behaviour is that only 4% of the rubbish weight is glass. This indicated that, even though we do not provide a kerbside collection service for glass, Exeter citizens are using the glass banks well. This is particularly important given the current crash in the market value for glass. Most other authorities who outsource the management of their recycling collections are now paying to send their mixed glass for reprocessing; because we are able to colour-separate using the bring banks, we can still generate revenue from selling some of the glass. As Exeter’s population is growing we are looking into providing new glass recycling sites. We have already secured a site on Prince of Wales Road to target students. Placing new sites is a slow process as there are several sources of permission that need to be agreed.

Kerbside Recycling Analysis 
Earlier in the year the Senior Recycling Officer analysed typical weight comparisons of refuse and recycling collected by crews. We also looked at areas with low presentation of recycling bins and high presentation of contaminated recycling. This information gives us an idea of the Low Performing Areas (LPAs) for recycling in the city. It also gives us some idea about what are the behaviours in each area that lead to not capturing recycling. All this information can help to inform our targeted campaigns to increase recycling.

The following chart summarises the findings:

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We have a high number of shared bin stores in Exeter. These are statistically difficult to manage in terms of ensuring everyone that uses them recycles. We get a high number of reports of contamination as it only takes one person in the shared scheme to undo the good work of others. Particular thought needs to be given in terms of the hows and whys of recycling as well as deterrents or rewards to affect behavioural change.

‘Low recycling’ is defined as less than 20%, and ‘Low-medium’ as less than 30%. These figures are significantly lower than Exeter’s published recycling rate, which also includes material collected on bring bank, garden waste and community group schemes.

Barriers to recycling 
The Recycling Action Plan 2016/17 aims to address the known barriers to recycling:
– Infrastucture: having access to a recycling service, and having the correct containers
– Knowledge: being aware of what and how to recycle, so that residents do not take the default option of putting waste into the grey bin
– Household behaviour and organisation issues
– Attitude and motivation: people are more likely to engage with recycling if their efforts are recognised and the benefits of recycling are made clear. In particular, people wish to know what happens to the material they sent for recycling

Communication Opportunities 
Recycling has over 1,500 subscribers. We have started sending regular targeted messages to reinforce our scheme. Mails to date include: a general introduction, plastics recycling promotion, food reduction message and Christmas messages.

The recycling department now has an ipad. The intention is to open social media accounts and to respond to recycling and waste related messages on the ECC accounts. This will also offer an opportunity to initiate targeted messages aimed at different target groups, without the restrictions of the ECC sites. We can still send messages out from ECC sites via the Communications department. This is pending approval of ECC Comms dept.

Three RCVs and the bin delivery truck are awaiting livery. The initial idea was to target the habit of putting recyclables in the rubbish bins. After some delays in producing designs (due to accessing technology and mixed messages in terms of feedback for the design), the current concept is very similar to what is already in place, with clearer messages. The focus will be on the three target materials plastics, metals and food reduction for the RCVs. The bin delivery van accesses more of the city so a general “what’s in the green bin” message will go on this.

Community Signage 
Some of the signs at community recycling points have out of date information and would benefit from matching the concepts developed in the livery messages. There is also a banner at the Pinhoe Sainsbury’s site that is available for us to use. These will be reaching people visiting the bring banks and thus people who are already pro-recycling. A more detailed message about the stats, process and consequences of recycling will be designed for these, including the environmental and economic aspects.

Calendars, Leaflets and Recycling Guide 
These need to portray clear, simple and targeted messages about waste policies, services and what can be recycled in Exeter.

Exeter Citizen 
A double-page spread has been reserved for the next four issues of the Citizen. The Spring 2016 edition will focus on clearing up the common misunderstandings about what can and cannot go in the green bin, addressing the knowledge barriers that many residents face.

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Insight magazine, Landlord Forum and local ward-based newsletter 
These can be used to target local issues or promotions as well as city wide messages.

Civic Centre 
We have created a general priorities comms display which is stored at the Civic Centre reception to present when no other campaigns are occupying the space they have there.

Promote a ‘Three Rs Communications Campaign’ competition for schools. A community outreach excercise, judged by the Council, with prizes for the winning school funded by the remaining funds from the Green Team programme 2015.

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Minutes of Scrutiny Committee: Community held on 01 March 2016 note:

Councillor Owen spoke on this item having given notice under Standing Order No. 44.

The Assistant Director Environment presented the report setting out the 2016/17 Recycling Plan for support and approval.

Members noted that, although the re-cycling rates could be improved, actual landfill rates were low and that the City Council was within the 20 lowest of 200 authorities in total waste production.

Both the Portfolio Holder for Health and Place and the Assistant Director Environment confirmed that the Citizen was a valuable tool in educating and informing the public in waste reduction techniques and that continued community engagement was vital to encourage further re-cycling. It was noted that an A5 pamphlet had recently been distributed to community outlets such as doctor’s surgeries.

A report on the feasibility of kerb side collections of glass had previously been reported to this Committee. As the fraction of glass remaining in black bags was only 4%, this indicated that the network of bottle banks in the City were well used, achieving similar rates of glass recycling to those districts with a kerb-side glass collection. Therefore the cost and benefit of introducing a kerb-side glass collection service was unlikely to be favourable.

In answer to a question about food waste, the Assistant Director Environment explained that food waste was a large fraction of the residual (black bin) waste stream in Exeter, at around 35% of the total content. This was the main reason why Exeter’s recycling rate appeared much lower than those local authorities with a food waste collection. However, the cost of providing a food waste collection service from every household would be significant, but it would make substantial savings in the disposal cost of that food waste, as it would be processed more cheaply through anaerobic digesters rather than burnt at the Energy from Waste Plant. Officers would continue to explore the feasibility of introducing such a collection service in association with the Disposal Authority (Devon County Council), and in particular examine how the potential savings in disposal costs could be used to help fund such a service.

In the absence of a food waste collection service the Council would need to rely on changing householders’ behaviour through education and a community engagement programmes, in order to encourage people to buy perishable foods more carefully, to store them appropriately, and re-use leftovers for another meal etc. People could also be encouraged to compost more food waste, either individually or as part of a community project.

Scrutiny Committee Community supported the Recycling Plan for 2016 and requested its approval by Executive and Council.