The Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) may move to three-weekly residual waste collections within the next two years in an effort to boost recycling and reduce service costs.
Around £700,000 could be shaved off the current yearly collections budget under plans being considered by the partnership, which includes Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and West Somerset district councils, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council.
The proposals would also see recycling extended to include plastic pots, tubs and trays, Tetra Pak-style cartons, small electrical items and household batteries. The yearly budget of the new service would be around £43m.
It is estimated the move could increase dry material recycling by up to 30% and food waste recycling by up to 15%.
The council said sorted kerbside recycling had “much lower costs” than commingled, as there would be no need to pay MRF gate fees or use specialised food waste collection vehicles.
Negotiations with contractors Kier have begun, and consultants Eunomia have been asked to come up with a benchmark figure on the costs of the new service.
A SWP statement read: “Nothing firm has yet been agreed but the decision must be made in the next two months in time to order replacements for the ageing fleet of recycling vehicles. Changes, if agreed, would be introduced in stages over at least two years.
“But SWP is confident this is a practical, sustainable and cost-effective solution to help residents recycle more, waste less and save money.
“SWP also hopes that the kerbside collection changes will happen alongside an end to landfilling rubbish in Somerset, with waste processed elsewhere to extract materials or burn it for power.”
SWP estimates 50% of residual waste is currently food or other materials readily recycled. A further 10% could be taken to recycling sites.
A three-weekly collection trial carried out in Taunton Deane in 2014 found householders coped ”more easily than expected” because of the extra materials accepted for recycling.