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Council warns of adverse impact from resources and waste strategy

In response to proposals in Defra’s resources and waste strategy, North Yorkshire County Council has said a lack of end-markets for recycled material and separate food waste collections will leave a hole in its budget.

In a report for the council’s transport, economy and environment scrutiny committee this week, officers made a series of critical arguments against the strategy’s policies.

On the issue of end-markets, the report said: “There are concerns over the lack of demand for the materials collected for recycling, although Government suggest this will be improved by the extended producer responsibility (EPR) and the plastic packaging tax.”

The report added that additional funding to cover proposed changes do not appear to cover “consequential costs” such as changes to the calorific value of residual waste and costs with not meeting guaranteed minimum tonnages within existing waste contracts.

Council officers were also critical of the proposal to mandate separate food waste collections, arguing that this would increase its costs.

The authority said the move would also significantly alter the “compositional make-up and amount of waste” and “damage the impact of the county council’s waste prevention campaigns based on successfully reducing food waste and increasing home composting”.

It proposed not to support the introduction of a minimum fortnightly refuse collection frequency because it believed that councils should be able to determine this themselves, and restricting refuse capacity is a driver for increased recycling.

The report argued: “The focus should be on outcomes, leaving local councils free to decide when to collect materials on the basis of what works for them… These decisions should be made locally taking into account the local area, housing type and demographics.

“It is proposed that we agree with the principle of a standard set of materials, but how this is collected and the frequency of collection should be down to individual councils.”

Further worries outlined

Another key concern raised was the lack of consideration of how funding could be used to help prevent waste prevention, despite being the clear preferred option within the waste hierarchy.

Officers argued that an incentivised – rather than a penalty-based – approach was needed. Additional payments should be given for local authority improvements to the quality and quantity of materials recovered but no penalties should be applied for not reaching any new requirements.

The report called for clarity on a number of issues such as whether household waste recycling centres will be subject to the proposed core set of recyclables and how the Government will ensure taht additional resources for core dry recyclables is given to local authorities.

Differences between rural and urban areas were highlighted throughout the report, with particular concerns that any additional funding would “be focused on easily gained improvements in low-performing mainly urban areas and those with a low cost base, moving potential funding away from more rural authorities”.

While it praised any attempt to develop alternatives to weight-based metrics for waste and resources, such as carbon intensity, again it argued variations in rurality and socio-demographics should be take into account.

Different ways of working together, and benefiting from economies of scale and efficiency, was highlighted as a potential opportunity.

The report raised a number of concerns on proposals for a deposit return scheme (DRS) as it will compete against kerbside collections.

It argued that a DRS should only be introduced if the EPR fails to deliver the anticipated outcomes for these materials. Any DRS should be focused on litter. To ensure it does tackles littering, single-use cups and cartons should also be included alongside the proposed materials -–PET, HDPE bottles, steel and aluminium cans, and glass bottles.

The report predicted issues with space constrictions in smaller village in rural areas in accommodating reverse vending machines. Fly-tipping around machines left in traditional bring bank-type sites was also a concern.

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