Update: The cabinet has agreed to provide a free third bin.
On Wednesday, Shropshire Council is to decide whether to provide an additional 240-litre wheelie bin for recycling to all Shropshire households that request one. The bins will be an alternative to the boxes we currently use for glass bottles and jars, metal containers and plastic containers. That will mean that most households will have three wheelie bins, one for dry recyclables, one for green garden and food waste, and another for residual waste.
The wheelie bins will be optional and you may have to pay to get one (though I hope not).
Many of us have long complained about the black plastic tubs used for recycling. Today, a recycling operative tipping the contents of a recycling box into a wheelie bin before loading onto the truck told me: “It’s like being back in the stone age with these tubs.”
Despite that, Shropshire Council has been reluctant to modernise. Back in 2018 it told me:
“Plastic has been collected from boxes for the last five years and while some material is blown out of the boxes, litter tonnages before and after the service launch do not suggest that there is a significant impact.”
The council has now backtracked:
“In response to public comments, the proposed switch to bins from boxes will reduce the amount of waste lost to the recycling process after being blown out of the boxes on windy days. This will improve the cleanliness of the local environment by removing that source of litter and further increase the tonnage of waste recycled by keeping it within the recycling collection system.”
The council says the provision of a 240-litre wheelie bin to replace the recycling boxes would:
- Increase the total basic container capacity for plastic, glass and metal from 110 litres to 240 litres
- Make the separation and storage of that waste stream more convenient for residents
- Reduce the amount of windblown litter from the boxes
- Improve manual handling for residents and waste and recycling crews.
In 2018, the council said that a third bin, despite its advantages, would cost around £600,000 a year. Now, Shropshire Council says the scheme will lead to an estimated £2.932m upfront cost (capital) which would need to be borrowed. This would then be repaid at £0.335m to be paid from revenue every year for ten years.
The alternative model being presented by the council is to charge residents between £23 and £28 pounds for the extra bin. That would be a bad move. While many households would pay the cost, others would not. They would either continue with the boxes, with associated litter blow, or use their black bins and send recyclables for incineration. If bins are purchased a serial number will need to be imprinted on the bin, or alternatively a secure sticker or RFID chip, to link the bin to the resident who purchased it. That will increase costs.
The council says that if the cabinet decides to charge for the bin, “there is a potential reputational risk that the Council is providing a two-tier service that potentially disadvantages those on lower incomes.” The forecast level of take up, currently expected to be 80%, is also likely to be reduced, reducing any increase in recycling rates. The council also notes:
“There are health and well being benefits anticipated for the crews as well as for householders, as the reduction in bending and lifting associated with the replacement of boxes with bins will impact positively on them and reduce the risks associated with the collection activity.”
I am surprised that Shropshire Council does not have £3 million available in reserves. However, it has spent more than £50 million on the Shrewsbury shopping centres and it is determined to build the North West Relief Road around Shrewsbury which will need at least £20 million of local funding. The council is due to move to the Pride Hill shopping centre – that will involve more capital funding that may or may not be funded by the sale of Shirehall.
The third bin will not be compulsory. Many households have limited storage space for waste and recyclables. Some households will find that the boxes will suit their needs better than bins. Many apartments can only use bags.
The third wheelie bin will have a grey body with a purple lid, to differentiate it from other bins and to meet emerging national standards on waste and recycling collection.
The council will encourage residents to use any redudant recyling boxes for other uses. Alternatively, they could be taken to a household recycling centre.