Aberdeenshire waste services changing to increase recycling and send less to landfill

Aberdeenshire’s recycling and waste services will be changing after a new strategy was agreed by councillors to improve the way the area disposes of the resources it consumes.

A new approach will be taken to push up the area’s recycling rate and send less waste to landfill, ahead of strict recycling targets and national restrictions on the use of landfill.

Weekly bin collections will continue, but general, non-recyclable waste – which is sent to landfill – will now be collected once every three weeks. These bins will also be smaller than at present – 180-litres. Currently, households have a 240-litre bin for waste sent to landfill, collected fortnightly.

Households will have two larger bins for recycling – paper and card will be collected one week and metals, cartons and plastics another. Food waste will still be collected weekly.

The proper use of food waste bins should mean minimal organic material in non-recyclable bins, and expanded recycling capacity should also reduce the volume of material going into them.

Although this kerbside collection option was the less popular of two which were proposed, it is judged to be the best option to decrease the material sent to landfill and push up recycling rates.

The changes are expected to be implemented from April 2020 and further communication will take place with residents to outline the changes in more detail.

Deciding the new strategy, Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) heard the changes to kerbside collections are dependent on Zero Waste Scotland funding. It is due to decide on a significant package to fund most of the cost of providing new bins to residents.

Each household would get one new smaller bin for non-recyclable waste. The existing blue-lidded recycling bins would be used for paper, card and cardboard and the existing non-recyclable waste bin would become another recycling bin for metals, cartons and plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays. The new bins for non-recyclable waste would be purchased with the funding from Zero Waste Scotland.

Improvements to the network of Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) to maximise the reuse and recycling of items not collected at the kerbside will take effect from April.

A small number will close as they don’t have the space to accept the same range of materials for recycling as the larger sites - savings will be reinvested in providing better service at other centres.

Portsoy and Insch HWRCs, which had been proposed to close, will remain open on limited hours following local representations – other HWRC hours will be slightly reduced to cover the cost.

The number of seasonal garden waste points in communities without access to disposal facilities at a nearby HWRC will also be increased, doubling the number of households with access to the service.

The development of an Energy from Waste facility in Aberdeen forms part of the new strategy – described as the management of waste using a “recovery option”. As a last resort, if Aberdeenshire Council commits to this project it will enable the recovery of energy from waste that cannot be prevented, reused or recycled.

Aberdeenshire’s recycling rate is 43.7%, but services currently available should allow a rate over 70%. Over half the materials in local non-recyclable waste bins is recyclable through existing services – equating to around 30,000 tonnes of recyclable materials being binned at a cost of £3.5million a year.

Sending waste to landfill costs much more than recycling, so not only does maximising the value of a material benefit the environment, it also frees up money for other council services.

A number of councillors described the changes as “the right thing to do”, and a proposal to allow residents to keep a larger landfill bin while changes are implemented was voted down.

ISC Chair Peter Argyle said where people genuinely have issues with the capacity of their bins the service will be happy to assist them, as it does now, but the changes are designed to encourage behaviour change and more thought about how resources are treated and disposed of.

He pointed out that the cost to dispose of landfilled waste is currently well over £100 per tonne whilst recycling on average costs only £29 per tonne, saying: “If we do not dramatically increase recycling there will be substantial cost to the council, which is not in any budgets and which we can’t afford.”

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “The new strategy supports the pressing need to alter our attitude towards the waste we produce through our consumption. We have been talking about increasing the recycling rate for some time and we have now approved a new strategy which is expected to do this.

“It is important that we treat the waste we create as a resource so we can reduce the amount sent to landfill and increase the materials that we reuse or recycle.”

ISC vice chair, John Cox, added: “Aberdeenshire’s recycling rate has plateaued in recent years, so it’s clear something had to be done to increase the amount we recycle.

“Other Scottish local authorities have had success increasing their recycling rate by adapting to a similar collection policy to the one we have selected, reducing the opportunity to send waste to landfill for disposal, so we are hopeful this will also be the case in Aberdeenshire.

“Clearly residents have a significant part to play in this, many of whom are already passionate about recycling, reducing waste and improving our environment.”