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Bin collections in Torfaen could be reduced to monthly

BIN collections in Torfaen could be reduced to just once a month under plans being considered by the borough council. 

It is set to ask the public whether it should empty wheelie bins either every three weeks or just once a month which it says it must do tackle the borough’s “stagnating” recycling rate.  

A consultation could be launched as soon as this month, though no changes would be introduced until March next year. 

At present bins are emptied once a fortnight but analysis has found households are still putting too much food waste – that can be collected at the kerbside in brown caddies every week – in their purple lidded bins that are only collected every fortnight. Material such as paper and card that can be recycled also makes up 15 per cent of a typical black bag in a Torfaen bin. 

Failing to hit recycling targets will land the council hefty fines from the Welsh Government and the amount of waste destined for landfill collected from households across Torfaen has increased since the pandemic. 

The council says all other Welsh authorities that are struggling to reach the current target to recycle 64 per cent of all waste, including food, are reviewing how often they collect waste. 

Torfaen had achieved 64 per cent recycling in 2019, but that dropped to 62 per cent in both 2020/21 and 20221/22 and a council report warns it is set to miss the 70 per cent target that will come into force in 2024/25. 

“As Torfaen has a stagnating recycling rate, it will fall significantly short of the 70 per cent recycling rate target in 2024/25 without material service development,” the report says.

The Welsh Government will fine councils £100,000 for every percentage point it is short of the target figure and though it has said it will not fine councils for missing the 2020/21 target it has demanded an explanation for council’s failure to achieve 64 per cent in 2021/22. 

Plans have been outlined to the council’s cleaner communities scrutiny committee who have said it wants clarity on what the council will consult on and has said it should produce clear information that can be shared with residents to explain the reasons for the changes. 

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Pontnewydd councillor Stuart Ashley said he was also uncomfortable at the prospect of enforcement action, including fines, against householders who fail to recycle. 

The Labour councillor said he agreed there should be an element of enforcement but said: “I think most of our approach should be encouragement with minimum enforcement.” 

He said it should work with households that have identified “barriers” that make recycling difficult for them. 

Scrutiny officer Cath Joseph said the council’s environment director Rachel Jowitt had told the committee the council should look at other councils to find out if they have used enforcement to increase recycling. 

She also said Ms Jowett had told them “education isn’t going to be enough to achieve the target” after Panteg councillor Norma Parish asked if the council should hold off on considering three or four week collections to see if recycling could be improved. 

The Labour councillor said: “People aren’t silly they will help if they have the right information.” 

The committee has also said the council should consider how it makes recycling and other waste bins and bags available to the public and monitor how many people take. Members also said the council should also take on board some 900 comments that have already been made about the potential changes via it’s Facebook page. 

How the council will collect nappies and other hygiene waste is likely to be considered separately and a further report on an enforcement policy is also expected. 

Experts from recycling body WRAP also considered how the council could keep fortnightly collections by reduce the size of the existing “skinny bins” or scrap bins and replace them with council issued bin bags, but officers have discounted those suggestions as not feasible. 

Following a consultation there will be a seminar to explain the changes for all councillors with the cabinet set to make a decision in June.