Major leap forward in recycling planned for 2018! Trial due this autumn (2017).
In the summer of 2015 recycling levels were about 24% (now 27%) for Lewes District whereas the national average is 43% (2015/16 figures). Lewes currently down at 344 on the national list!
When I was first elected in May 2015 to the Lewes District Council I was asked by the Liberal Democrat group if I would ‘shadow’ the Conservative Lead Member for Waste and Recycling. I was glad to accept this role as I have long thought that the Lewes District Council were dragging their heels in this area. So at various council meetings I began to bang on about the disastrous state of recycling levels in the district.
There are multiple reasons as to why recycling rates are low and here are some examples: outdated vehicle design, outdated recycling facilities and a lack management focus. However, there has been some progress during 2015 and 2016. The long-awaited food recycling bins have been a success but we still need to convince more people to use them. [See: benefits of food waste recycling] Also, the garden waste service is now being rolled out district wide. Also during last year the council undertook a survey of householders’ views because the previous Conservative leadership were favouring the idea that normal collections should happen every two weeks and not weekly. My colleague, Steve Saunders (LibDem Newhaven) raised serious concerns about this asking, ‘how would mothers deal with the problem of having to store dirty nappies for two weeks before they were collected?’. The following survey of residents’ views revealed that people wanted to keep the weekly collections and the idea of fortnightly collections has been dropped.
However the recycling figures are still very low. The most recent report shows a figure of 27%. When I was elected I got complaints about the limited range of recyclable materials. I call it the ‘yoghurt pot question‘. I still get these complaints. So, what’s happening?
Thankfully we have got a new Chief Executive and Director of Service Delivery. Also, we have a new Council Leader, Andy Smith. These people are more receptive to improvements and change.
During the tail end of last year the District Council appointed a project manager to oversee improvements. We are now beginning to get more frequent reports and there are two proposals currently on the table: improvements to the collection service and to the recycling facilities. This is not to do with the stuff we take to the dump. It’s to do with what happens to the stuff after it collected from your doorstep. Radical changes are needed in both of these areas in order to improve the recycling rates.
At the recent Cabinet meeting I asked three questions:
- The report didn’t include any dates showing when the recycling service would be introduced. So I asked ‘when?’ The answer came back that there would be a trial this autumn and the implementation would be in 2018. I’m certainly going to follow up to make sure that the Conservatives stick to these figures.
- The report also was not very specific about improving the range of materials that can be recycled. So I asked a question and got a commitment to a significant increase including things like yoghurt pots and tetra packs. Again, I will be following up to make sure those improvements are implemented.
- Thirdly I asked a question about improving and simplifying the containers which householders have to use for recycling. I want the council to learn from other leading councils and implement a co-mingling system so that we only have to have one bin for most of the recycling. (Glass will still have to go in a separate bin). I also want the council not to force everybody to have large wheelie bins. I got a commitment to (a) study what other successful councils are doing and (b) offer a range of containers suitable for the householders’ property.
Here is a copy of the actual questions I asked: