Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) was shortlisted at this year’s National Recycling Awards for Local Authority Target Success and last year it won the Best Local Authority Initiative award. And this month it received confirmation from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that it is now the top- performing council for recycling in England, with a recycling and composting rate in excess of 61%.
Since it started collecting recyclables at the kerbside in 1996, SMDC has always collected paper separately from other materials, something MRW is advocating as part of its Recycling United campaign to boost the quality of recyclable materials collected from UK households. SMDC environment manager for waste strategy and performance Nicola Kemp explains: “One of the main reasons for keeping our paper separate were concerns over whether a fully commingled system would generate paper that there would be a viable end market for.”
She says that quality and finding end markets for materials go hand in hand, as does the income generated from the sale of materials that are in demand from reprocessors. Kemp says the income generated from selling its newspapers and magazines (news & pams) is important income that goes towards the council’s recycling service. So it is in the council’s interest to collect a top-quality materials stream that reprocessors want – and pay a good price for.
She recognises the need to do this across the different material streams, adding that the council does not want to collect materials that have no value further along the reprocessing chain because that would defeat the purpose of collecting them in the first place.
She is proud of SMDC’s record on keeping contamination to a minimum. “We have no major issues with contamination and are very pleased with our low rate, which is less than 1%,” Kemp says, adding that SMDC has never had a single load of its recyclables rejected. This is mainly down to a comprehensive communications campaign (see box), which explains to residents exactly what can and cannot be recycled.
Part of the success of this is due to using messages that resonate with the public. So, for example, Kemp explains that the council ‘sells’ the need to rinse food contamination from containers by saying this is important for maintaining bin hygiene and keep flies and vermin away – issues that directly affect residents.
Developing the recycling scheme
Kerbside recycling collections first started in the Moorlands in 1996. Historically, rubbish was collected from the back door of properties using black sacks. By 2004 more than 80% of properties were provided with a 140-litre wheeled bin for the collection of general rubbish (collected weekly), a 240-litre wheeled bin for the collection of garden waste and a 55-litre kerbside recycling box collecting glass and cans. Paper and textiles were collected using a combination of bags.
In 2006/07 the recycling rate in Moorlands had risen to 35%, significantly higher than the 5.44% in 2001/02. The statutory recycling target for the authority at this time was 18%. A satisfaction rate of 88% was identified through the 2003/04 triennial survey.
Following annual budget consultations, which consistently found that residents wanted to recycle more, and recognition that government targets for recycling and landfill diversion were going to get tougher, in 2004 the council started a period of public consultation. This found that residents wanted to recycle their plastics and cardboard, felt that a fortnightly residual waste collection was frequent enough, and that rural residents wanted wheeled bins and kerbside recycling collections.
The council approved a new waste strategy in December 2005. This proposed a collection method that would enable food waste, cardboard and plastics to be recycled using a kerbside collection scheme to be rolled out in 2007/08. Collections were to be on the same day of the week but using an alternate-week approach.
In March 2007 the council re-started its garden waste collection service following the winter closedown. This enabled residents to collect cardboard and food waste alongside garden waste for in-vessel composting. Most properties use a 240-litre brown wheeled bin, or a combination of biodegradable paper sacks (garden waste/cardboard) and a 25-litre lockable caddy (food waste) for homes where wheelie bins are unsuitable. A 5-litre kitchen caddy was issued to all homes on the scheme with an information pack detailing the changes, including a list of collection dates for the forthcoming year.
The second phase of service change coincided with the expiry of the kerbside recycling contract in August 2007. So, from September 2007, around 40,000 homes started using an alternate week collection system using three wheeled bins: 240-litre brown bin for organic waste (food, cardboard and garden), a 140-litre grey wheeled bin for recyclables (glass, mixed cans, foil and some plastics), bags for paper and textiles and a 180-litre blue lidded wheeled bin for the collection of general rubbish
Collections of all containers now occurred on the same collection day, with recycling/organic waste collected one week and general rubbish collected the following week. Properties unsuitable for wheeled bins were offered alternatives including black sacks for general rubbish, a kerbside box for the commingled recyclables and biodegradable paper sacks and a 25-litre caddy for organics.