A COUNCIL is scrapping plans for a £2 million overhaul of a waste collection centre as it seeks to boost recycling and avoid reducing bin collections.
A public backlash in spring last year forced a rethink on plans to reduce the frequency that wheelie bins are emptied to either once every three weeks or just once a month in response to continued failure to meet recycling targets.
Instead Torfaen council’s ruling Labour group said it would step up efforts to encourage residents to recycle their household waste – and avoid putting discarded food that is collected separately every week for composting in with household rubbish that is only collected once a fortnight – as well as reviewing its whole waste collection operation.
The service has run over budget and the council has spent reserves on new vehicles as well as on planning to upgrade the Ty Coch waste transfer station in Llantarnam, Cwmbran, so recycling can be sorted and stored ready to be sent off-site to processors.
But following a review by a dedicated group of councillors, officers and advisors, the plan to redesign the Ty Coch site has been binned – even though the Welsh Government had already said it would provide up to £2 million in capital funding.
The decision was taken by the council’s special waste taskforce, the accelerated improvement group, in October and reported to the council’s January 16 cabinet meeting.
Mark Thomas, the council’s deputy environment director, told the cabinet: “This means that the council is now back to the drawing board for long term, sustainable and resilient infrastructure.”
The cabinet agreed it will write to climate change minister Julie James stating it has agreed to close the Ty Coch project, which was agreed in October 2022, but “reiterating Torfaen’s commitment to high recycling”. It’s also intended to use the £1.3 million already in the capital programme for Ty Coch towards the, as yet unidentified, replacement which could involve redeveloping the New Inn waste transfer station.
The council will tell Ms James abandoning the Ty Coch is a “necessary change of direction” and it will and also ask for “in-principle support for submission of a further business case for capital investment” this calendar year.
It will provide a copy of a “road map” the council has devised, intended to bring Torfaen’s recycling rate up to the 70 per cent target by 2025 and work with the Welsh Government on developing the plan.
In 2022/23 just 58 per cent of waste in Torfaen was recycled which is below the current 64 per cent Welsh target, which includes food waste composting.
Failure to meet the targets could see the council having to pay up to £1.1 million a year in fines by 2025 based on its current performance.
A report to the cabinet stated the council has struggled for more than 15 years to find a suitable recycling transfer station, as had been planned for Ty Coch, but it will retain the site in the interim and carry out other improvements.
The road map to boost recycling includes maintaining the Household Waste Recycling Centre – where people can take household items for recycling – which is one of the best performing in Wales, and increasing the number of items that can be collected at the kerbside such as small electrical items and stretchy plastic.
It also includes improving facilities, making it easier for people to recycle and the potential of enforcement action against those who fail to follow the rules or place items in the wrong bins or containers.
The council will also provide enhanced recycling collections to businesses as well as community buildings, such as village halls, to meet new waste regulations.
Cllr Many Owen, the cabinet member for the environment, said enforcement would be the “last resort” in response to concerns from colleagues with it focusing on education and “knocking on doors, asking people to get on board.”
Council leader, and Panteg member Anthony Hunt, said: “We all have to play our part I still see bins with food in them or easy to recycle card, paper and plastic.
“We will engage with residents and if necessary use enforcement.”
Cllr Hunt claimed the consultation, on reducing bin collections, showed support for taking action against those who don’t recycle: “People said, ‘I do my bit but what about him or her down the road who is chucking it all in the bin and complaining when it’s full?’.”
Changes to waste collections including the new business recycling service and the public engagement campaign to boost recycling is being funded by half a million pounds from the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund.