CAERPHILLY Council will start giving out free food waste bags to residents, after it was accused of being “slow to address” its “dire” recycling rates.
Audit Wales found the council is “only recently beginning to take action” to improve recycling rates against Welsh Government targets.
Failing to improve on last year’s performance could land the council with a £1.2 million fine – and auditors warned that food waste was a particular area of concern.
“Low participation in recycling amongst residents [is] resulting in a high amount of food waste within its residual waste stream,” they said in a new report. “Approximately 25% of residual waste is food waste.”
Unlike every other local authority in Wales, Caerphilly County Borough Council doesn’t provide free food bags for its residents.
But this policy will come into force by the end of the year as councillors scramble to bump up performance and avoid seven-figure Welsh Government fines.
At a meeting on Tuesday October 31, the council’s housing and environment scrutiny committee learned Caerphilly had slipped, over five years, from fourth to 21st in a league table of Welsh councils’ recycling performance.
That ranking last year meant only Cardiff had a worse recycling rate out of the nation’s 22 local authorities.
At the meeting, Cllr Chris Morgan, the cabinet member for waste, acknowledged the council’s recycling rates had “deteriorated in recent years”.
A contractual problem had led to a dip in the council’s performance in the first year recycling rates started to slide, according to Mark Williams, Caerphilly’s corporate director for environment.
Bethan Roberts, from report authors Audit Wales, said waste management was an “area of risk” that could have major financial implications for the council, given the potential size of Welsh Government fines.
Committee member Cllr Judith Pritchard criticised Caerphilly’s “absolutely dire performance” and asked: “Are you really convinced the council has learned lessons?”
Ms Roberts said Caerphilly Council had opportunities to learn from “what other authorities are doing” to improve their own recycling rates.
Away from the meeting, Cllr Morgan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the local authority was “committed to rectifying” the recent drop in recycling rates.
He said the council’s new seven-year route map for waste “highlights the key milestones that we will be undertaking to ensure we meet and exceed future statutory recycling targets”.
Cllr Morgan added: “We have already made good progress with several of these milestones, including appointing a dedicated team of recycling advisors and the start of a 12-month free caddy liner trial, which will begin later this year.
“Historically, Caerphilly County Borough Council has gained a positive reputation for being a high performing recycling authority, and we are confident that we will be again.”
Residents will receive a six months’ worth supply of food caddy bags in December.