City of Bradford Council has overspent by £3m on its waste management budget because of contamination of household recycling collections and a missing trommel, councillors have been told.
A report to its regeneration and environment scrutiny committee said the largest single factor was an increase in residual waste due to contamination in the recycling stream.
This had cost Bradford £1.2m. Other unexpected costs were £900,000 for a shortfall in projected savings from reducing refuse collection rounds, and a fall of £500,000 in recyclate sales due to global market pressures, driven by import restrictions in China.
The council has also incurred a £550,000 cost because a trommel could not be procured for its MRF, requiring both a second working shift and the transfer of some waste to third-party processors.
“The market for recyclates is international and subject to a degree of volatility,” the report said.
“The announcement by China to limit inputs of recyclates has caused the market for many recyclables to become depressed, resulting in the required quality standards of recyclates going up while, at the same time, prices going down. This has affected negatively the budgeted income from recyclate sales.”
Contamination levels in kerbside collections were much higher than anticipated at 38%, driven both by householders’ errors and “what appears to be deliberate use of the recycling bin for the deposit of hidden residual waste”.
This had slowed the progress of material through the MRF, leaving it unable to process all the recyclate generated and forcing the council to run an unbudgeted second shift and to send some material to another outlet.
Bradford ordered a trommel for the MRF as the most effective way to take out contamination and speed up the facility to allow it to handle all the material concerned.
The trommel was due to be operational last month but the supplier had been unable to provide it ,and it was not now expected to be working this financial year. But councillors were told that good progress had been made elsewhere, with only 7.7% of waste going to landfill and 92.3% of value being recovered.
Actions agreed to try to bring the budget under control included better education about what to include in recycling, more zealous enforcement action and increasing MRF capacity.