Northumberland glass recycling trial praised

Bin bosses in Northumberland have praised an ‘excellent’ trial of glass collections and hope the service could be extended throughout the county.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 4:11 pm
Scene like this at overflowing bottle banks may be a thing of the past if the glass recycling scheme is rolled out across the county.

About 4,000 households have been included in the pilot scheme, which surveys suggest has been well received by families so far.

And although brains behind the initiative have also cautioned that data collected may have been skewed by the coronavirus pandemic, this is unlikely to hamper its wider rollout.

“The council does have a good performing waste service, it’s very cost effective, reliable and offers good value for money,” said Paul Jones, who is director of local services and housing at Northumberland County Council.

“We have a very high landfill diversion rate, but the recycling rate hasn’t improved in recent years and it’s something that we need to push on with as part of our climate change action plan.

“The government has been undertaking reviews, but fundamentally for English councils there will be an expectation that you achieve [more than a] 50 per cent recycling rate.

“And also that you are collecting a much wider range of materials at the curbside for recycling and that those are more consistent from local area to local area, in terms of the range of materials and the manner in which they are collected.”

The trial, which started in November last year, has covered a combined total of about 1,000 properties in Morpeth, Bedlington, Hexham and Alnwick and Lesbury. The Alnwick areas were Chapel Lands, Barresdale; Fairfields, Weavers Way, Swordy Park; Allerburn Lea; and Lesbury.

Since then, monthly collections have picked up more than 200 tonnes, with an average per household of about 71kg, a figure which would put Northumberland among the top performing quarter of all English local authorities.

Currently, most eco-conscious households have to take glass waste to tips or one of more than 170 smaller recycling sites throughout the county for it to be recycled.

However, despite the success of the 12-month pilot scheme, which has so far cost £106,000 in increased labour and to provide new bins, bosses have also warned it may need to be extended beyond its scheduled conclusion to ‘obtain a clearer understanding’ of its impact following the end of Covid restrictions.

Speaking to the county council’s Communities and Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Mr Jones was also asked about the possible implications of government plans for a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers.

He added: “A DRS is something that is actively being considered [by ministers]. I think one of the key concerns within the resource recovery sector and waste sector is, given that we’re looking at a significant improvement in the curbside recycling services, is this something that actually adds additional value, or is it just another bureaucratic system?

“There’s a lot of administration and bureaucracy involved in that deposit return system. Is it better just to invest in a much better municipal collection arrangement, that will capture a larger proportion of that material at least cost?”

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service