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TORFAEN: Bin reduction alternatives

SUGGESTIONS for how to boost recycling instead of reducing bin collections to three-weekly or monthly have been put forward by councillors.

Alternatives to how to achieve a 70 per cent recycling target in Torfaen, and avoid reducing bin collections to either once every three weeks or even just once a month, include working with business and fining those who fail to follow the rules.

Wheelie bins are currently emptied every fortnight in Torfaen, but an ongoing consulation by the borough council only gives respondants the option to say whether they would prefer them collected once every three weeks, or once a month from March next year – with no option available to keep them fortnightly.

That has prompted the Independent Group, which is the official opposition on the council, to write to Labour leader Anthony Hunt to outline alternatives it believes could help the council increase its current 62 per cent recycling rate “to the golden 70 per cent” and avoid hefty Welsh Government fines for under performance.

The four member group has called for the council to pause the on-going consultation and asked the leadership to consider the alternatives it has put forward.

The group’s letter states: “Our constituents have no choice but to select only a three- or four-week service in the consultation. This flawed consultation is not acceptable or fair.”

It describes the current service, which has been blighted by missed collections and logistical problems in collecting and sorting recyclables, as “dire” and said: “We should be getting our current service right before considering any changes.

“We urge you to pause the consultation and instead work on the ideas. We believe Torfaen’s recycling rate could easily hit the imposed 70 per cent target set by Welsh Government if fully adopted.”

Food waste, stored in brown caddies, and black boxes for items such as paper, bottles, plastic and clothes, will continue to be collected weekly while the council also plans to increase the frequency of fortnightly blue bag cardboard collections to every week.

But it has said reducing collections of the purple lidded bins, which are meant to be for waste that cannot be recycled, are the only achievable options to increase recycling, with the council already behind the existing 64 per cent target.

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However the Independent Group has said the council should get any schools which aren’t recycling to do so and introduce recycling for business waste. It has pointed out there are more than 800 food businesses registered with the Food Standards Agency in the borough which it believes alone could “potentially” push the council beyond the 70 per cent target to be introduced from 2025.

The group has also said recycling should be introduced to flats and retirement schemes that aren’t currently doing so.

The three independent councillors, who aren’t members of the group, who represent Cwmbran’s Llantarnam ward have written separately to council chief executive Stephen Vickers and waste chief Rachel Jowitt with their alternatives to reducing bin collections.

The email, sent by Cllr David Thomas on behalf of himself and councillors Alan Slade and Jason O’Connell, has said there are 88 blocks of flats that have space for recycling facilities but aren’t recycling.

The council has said it intends to make recycling easier for those who live in flats.

The trio have also suggested the council should make the compostable caddy bags for food waste more widely available including in supermarkets and corner shops and better promote how to recycle.

They also want warnings for those who fail to recycle and fines for “repeat offenders” and to copy a system used in Conwy, which has achieved 70 per cent, that allows residents to sort their own recycling.

The Independent Group in its letter also criticised the council leadership for “failing to challenge” the proposal from officers to reduce bin collections.

The comments follow public criticism of the plan last week from within the Labour group after Abersychan councillor Giles Davies said he couldn’t support reducing bin rounds.

Cllr Hunt has said he will listen to alternative proposals but it it is unclear if the majority of councillors will have the chance to vote either for or against any changes. A timeline previously published by the council suggested a decision would be taken by the eight member Labour cabinet in June, meaning the full council on which Labour holds 30 of the 40 seats won’t be involved in any decision.