Plans to modernise the way Plymouth deals with household waste and increase recycling in the city are to be considered by the Council’s Place and Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee.
A report to the committee says the city needs to modernise its waste collections in order to reach targets for recycling and make sure services can cope with the expected rise in Plymouth population over the next 20 years.
Most of the city’s 117,423 households have green bin recycling bins collected fortnightly and despite the introduction of household glass recycling two years ago, recycling rates in Plymouth have been static at 32 to 33 per cent since 2007/8.
The ambition set out in the Plymouth Plan is for the city to recycle 50 per cent of its waste by 2034.
The report says the Council needs to maximise the benefits of the substantial investment it has already made in an energy from waste facility and improvements to recycling facility at Chelson Meadow.
The Council also improved the efficiency of its collections by reshaping collection routes early in 2015.
The report says many areas of the country have shown that it is possible to achieve high levels of recycling and 75 per cent of councils have moved to alternate weekly collections.
It is estimated Plymouth could increase recycling by nine per cent by moving to alternate weekly collections, where green recycling waste is collected on week and brown, non-recyclable waste the following week.
The report acknowledges that if the Council were to introduce alternate weekly collections it would be vital to gain the trust and cooperation of residents and for a new collection system to be flexible, with the Council working with residents to help them make the right choices.
Like many other cities that have already moved to alternate weekly collections, Plymouth has a high student and transient population and significant areas of high density housing, flats and narrow streets which can create issues with bin storage and collections.
The Council would also need to accommodate the needs of individual households where there are special circumstances, for example where there are several children still using nappies, or occupants with health conditions that generate unavoidable waste.
However, many households in Plymouth already recycle and are keen to do more. Studies elsewhere have shown that at least 60 per cent of household waste can be recycled.
The report says common concerns about alternate weekly collections in other areas have often proved to be unfounded. It says: “Concern is sometimes expressed about switching to less frequent collections of food waste, citing potential problems with odour, flies and the increased risk of vermin. However, research and evidence from those areas that have been operating reduced frequency waste collections for many years has shown that there is no risk to health or amenity provided that simple precautions are adopted like the double wrapping of large items of food waste, and ensuring that bin lids are kept closed.”
Councillor Mike Leaves, Cabinet member for Street Scene and Environment, said: “I’m sure just about everyone agrees that we want Plymouth to be a clean and green city and that need to up our game on recycling. This means we have to modernise and changing the way we do things. Many people don’t like change but if we do this we will make sure we do it properly. We now need to work up the details about how measures such as alternate weekly collections might work. We need to learn from the best out there as most other councils have already done this. We’ll be listening to people throughout and ensuring we do what is best for Plymouth.”