How Conwy’s council made impressive strides in cutting residual waste, increasing recycling and saving money.

Author: Freccia Benn Read time: 4 mins
Client type: Institutional landowners Technology: Landfill gas
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When many councils face unprecedented cuts to budgets, how local authorities allocate remaining funds becomes paramount. According to the Local Government Association, even impending increases in council tax will not cover the expected shortfall. So, waste management teams will have to maintain service levels on reduced budgets.

Despite all this, all eyes have turned to a local authority in the north Welsh town Conwy that has bucked the trend with a scheme that promises significantly higher recycling rates alongside significant budget savings. 

Why councils are so squeezed

Higher wages and cuts of £1.4 billion to central government funding in England are taking a toll on local authorities. And with so many services to manage, councils are generally committed to protecting areas like social care. 

However, with children’s centres, libraries and road maintenance at risk, many in the waste management industry fear a halt to the addition of new recycling services such as food waste or, at worst, a return to the dirty days of the eighties with services reduced to a minimum. 

The idea - How Conwy Borough Council is doing things differently

In Wales, though, Conwy Borough Council has shown that an ambitious approach can reap dividends. In 2016, Conwy took the radical step of reducing residual waste collections. Trials took place throughout the borough to see whether three or four-weekly collections were viable. 

The goal was to increase recycling rates to meet the Welsh Government target of 70% by 2025, save on landfill tax, and maximise the amount and value of household waste sent for recycling to reinvest into council services. 

The results - A roaring success

The two trials achieved significant results, with the four-weekly residual waste system resulting in a saving of £390,000. The cuts in collections have not only boosted recycling but will significantly impact Conwy’s annual budget for the better.

Recycling collected as part of the three-weekly scheme rose by 5%, with a 20% decrease in residual waste. The four-weekly scheme saw recycling increase by 14%, with residual waste falling by 31%. When many councils are looking to save money by investing in energy from waste and cutting back on new recycling services, these kinds of results are particularly poignant. 

And interestingly, there has been no evidence to show any negative impact of fly-tipping in the area. Contrary to the views of any potential naysayers, there has also been no increase in requests for additional bins. 

There’s a lesson in this for local authorities

Thanks to Conwy Borough Council’s efforts, it’s goodbye to over-flowing bins, rodents and angry residents. 

The trial has proven so successful that the authority’s Task and Finish Group has recommended the four-weekly scheme be rolled out across the county as an “opportunity to provide a sustainable long-term solution to recycle more, waste less and increase savings.”

From everyone at Lumify, good luck Conwy!