Councillor Mike Morey and the SWISSCo team roll out the Right Stuff, Right Box campaign

Garden waste collections key to driving up recycling rates - Steve Darling

Steve Darling

Just over a year ago we were seriously considering introducing three-weekly bin collections. Austerity, huge reductions in our Revenue Support Grant from the government, demand and growth pressures, inflation, the impact of COVID-19 and lost income were all taking a toll.

Pair that with underinvestment in TOR2 over the years and this Partnership Administration had to seriously consider the possibility of changes to waste collections to get on top of the issue with fewer funds.

We knew it was an unpopular move after feedback from our residents, and we listened. Before making the final throw of the dice we wanted to make sure we had explored and exhausted every possible option to drive up our recycling rates before implementing the changes.

When we looked at the highest performing councils for recycling we discovered that all of them had one thing in common – they all had kerbside garden waste collections.

Now that is what we are set to introduce for households in Torbay. We have listened to local residents and we know there is definitely interest in a garden waste collection scheme. I’d like to stress that this service would be optional, so no one will be forced to pay for a service they do not require. For residents who don’t wish to use the service, the Household Waste and Recycling Centre will continue to offer green waste recycling

We’re hoping the scheme will increase our recycling rate by six er cent, with an estimated 25,000 households opting in. This will help our wider plans to drive up recycling in Torbay from the current 37 per cent rate to 50 per cent. There would be an initial cost of £1.6m to start the project, with SWISCo investing in more staff and vehicles to make it happen.

We know that hundreds of tonnes of garden waste is disposed of with residual and household waste every year, and this scheme could make a significant difference. As an additional bonus, all the collected garden waste would be turned into compost locally. It takes four months to convert garden waste to high-grade compost and it will be completely organic.

The Council and SWISCo have also started to roll out the new ‘Right Stuff, Right Box’ campaign, which aims to simplify household recycling with a new colour coded system and provides an extra bag for paper recycling. Residents will still be able to use their existing food caddy for food waste recycling.

The new blue bags and information are being delivered to households across the Bay right now. It will take weeks to complete the roll-out so please don’t worry if you don’t receive your new bags immediately.

We are committed to doing all we can to tackle climate change and make Torbay carbon neutral by 2030. Increasing our recycling rates and reducing our carbon footprint are an essential part of this.

As a council we have declared a climate emergency, that is how strongly we feel about this and the need for urgent action!

To help our cause we have been holding a series of climate conversations with residents and with key stakeholders from a range of sectors including transport, energy, housing and waste and the natural environment. We want everyone to help us co-design and set the priorities for a Torbay-wide Carbon Neutral Action Plan.

We are already working on a range of projects to decarbonise our council buildings, our vehicles and the way we work. We are also allocating over £1m this year to help accelerate action.

Taking significant steps to tackle climate change will not only help our planet, it will ultimately help Torbay thrive.