Posted: Wed 14th Feb 2024

Merthyr Tydfil Residents’ Low Food Recycling Rates Raise Concerns Over Council Targets and Fines

news.wales / newyddion.cymru
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Feb 14th, 2024

Just half of Merthyr Tydfil’s residents currently recycle their food waste, sparking concerns the council could miss its future targets and and be hit with fines.
On January 29, an officer told the council’s neighbourhood services, countryside and planning scrutiny committee that 50% of residents take part in food recycling and 75% recycle their dry waste.
He also said there is 50% food and dry recycling in wheelie bins, which goes up to 75% if you take into account things that could be taken to household recycling centres.
The council wants to achieve the 64% target for 2023-24 and be in a position where it surpasses the 70% target in 2024-25 to avoid fines for not achieving this.
At the moment, the fines are £200 for every tonne by which the target is missed, which is around £52,000 for each percentage point that the council falls under the relevant target by.
Overall, the council has continued to achieve the Welsh Government’s recovery target year on year since 2015-16.
The 64% target was achieved for the eighth consecutive year in 2022-23,
with a recovery rate of 64.8%.
But the report said this figure is 2% less than the previous year and well
below where the council would like to be in its aim to incrementally increase
the rate towards the 70% target and future targets up until zero waste in 2050.
The report said research carried out this year into waste and recycling identified above Welsh average figures of recyclables and food in wheelie bins.
It said it is evident “there is still a considerable amount of recyclables including food in residual waste bins”.
It added: “Although there have been many projects implemented over the years to address this the impacts are not enough to continue to achieve the WG (Welsh Government) targets.”
It said waste and recycling wardens continue to monitor food waste participation and engagement with residents who do not recycle this material.
There was a significant increase in kerbside dry recycling and food waste tonnages between 2019-20 and 2020-21, possibly due to the Covid lockdowns and restrictions, with householders being at home more, the report said.
But from 2020-21 there was a downward trend in the amount of dry recyclables and food waste collected at the kerbside, compared with the previous year.
This trend has seen food waste tonnages going below pre-Covid levels while dry recycling, although reducing, has remained above them.
In response to a question from Councillor Paula Layton, council officers said the council is ranked about 11th or 12th out of the 22 councils in Wales and that five councils are achieving the target but they’re doing nothing different.
Councillor David Hughes, cabinet member for neighbourhood services, said they’re looking at things like a rubble collection service and he said the recycling requirements for businesses should help but they’ve got a lot to do to meet the 70% target.
Speaking about food waste going into wheelie bins, committee member Councillor Clive Jones said: “It’s completely unhygienic in this day and age. No food in 2024 should be going into a black bin.”
He added it’s a “huge task” to reach the target and so far they’ve escaped any fines and need to avoid them “at all costs”.
He said they’ve got to increase the rate by at least 4% by March 31, 2025 and said it’s going to be a huge ask and to keep it at that level.
He also said that they need to tell those who are complying that 50% of their neighbours aren’t doing it and ask why aren’t they doing it.
He said: “These figures, certainly for food waste are stark and the public should be told because a lot of them are doing their bit.”
He said some of the reasons given for not putting out food waste are “laughable”.
He said people need to be told  they have to reach this 70% figure by March 31, 2025 or else because the people who will be paying for it are the public.
Philip Star, a co-opted member of the committee, said things seem to have plateaued and the message around the need for people to recycle tends to be congratulatory.
He said people need to be told this is the reality of the situation and the only way they are going to reach the target is by bringing the public with them.
He said there are always going to be people who never comply but there’s probably a small number of people who don’t realise how serious the situation is and if they can make them aware they may well pull more people to the side of recycling.
Councillor Bill Smith said they’ve got to tell the public they’ve got a major problem and that problem is cost.
He said they’ve got to start telling the public the cost would be to the whole budget of the council as it would have a knock-on effect.
He said they’ve got to give the public the bad news not just the good news and added: “I don’t know how we are going to do it.”
Councillor Paula Layton said staff are doing everything they can but it is down to resources and cost. She said it’s a hard job and said the staff are doing their best and well done to them.
Councillor David Jones, chair of the committee, shared his appreciation for the work that’s being done. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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