Agenda item

Food Waste Collection

 To consider the report of the Cleansing and Fleet Manager.


The Cleansing and Fleet Manager presented a report and outlined Eunomia Research and Consulting’s business case for a separated collection and recycling of food waste in the city. The report included five different recycling and rubbish collection scenarios, with a comparison of cost and performance against that of the current service (the ‘baseline’) provided by Exeter City Council. There would be a requirement for additional recycling and customer support staff, with the option of food waste collection costing more than the baseline service, as well as coming with a degree of uncertainty and therefore financial risk to the Council. Members were presented with a proposed recommendation that the current recycling service, without a food waste collection, should continue as the service option with the lowest modelled costs and financial risk. The Cleansing and Fleet Manager explained that the business case for food waste collection would be reviewed every year as part of the Recycling Plan. The review would also take account of any developments in technology for waste collection and treatment and changes in the markets for recyclable materials, and the evolving financial case for food waste collection.


Councillor Musgrave attended the meeting and spoke under Standing Order 44 and expressed his disappointment that the recommendation was not to proceed with the collection of food waste at this time.  Exeter was the only local authority in Devon not to offer this service. He referred to a recent petition, which over 600 individuals had signed in favour of such a collection.  He was concerned that an expensive report had been commissioned, which could have provided an opportunity for additional revenue generation.


The Member Champion for Communities and Food Recycling referred to the consultant’s report, and he did not feel that the City Council should be asked to be burdened with such a significant expenditure when set against the current financial constraints and future uncertainty of such a commitment.  The Cleansing and Fleet Manager stated that the cost of the final consultant’s report was £16,240. Eunomia had been able to provide an informed report, with the costs, likely environment and performance of food waste collection. He reiterated that the collection of food waste remained an aspiration of this Council.


The Cleansing and Fleet Manager welcomed Members’ positive comments on the Cleansing and Recycling service and responded to the following points:-


·         Exeter City Council’s support on waste reduction through its dry recycling scheme, exceeded the rates achieved in most cases by the Devon and also the nationwide scheme. 

·         Exeter had been able to meet the stricter regulations from the implementation of China’s ‘Operation National Sword’, having the foresight to have an established Materials Reclamation Facility, (MRF) and offer high quality recyclables ensuring that export to China remained cost effective.  There was also a reduced environmental impact with the container ships returning with a return load of recycled materials from the U.K.  The streamed and separated material allowed the Council to continue to enjoy a market in the UK and Europe, despite the general decrease in the value of recycled materials.

·         the over purchasing of food was noted as being an obvious factor in the increase in excessive food waste.


The Director also thanked Members and agreed that the service did represent value for money.  He referred to the Association for Public Service Excellence 2016/17 (APSE) performance indicators, which confirmed that Exeter City Council’s recycling rate of household waste in terms of refuse collection was the fourth most effective authority in the UK and cost efficient service for its council tax payers.


A Member commented on previous recycling performance and considered that Exeter City Council should still be prioritising a food waste collection service. The Cleansing and Fleet Manager stated that he was aware that the recycling rate had reduced over the past two years and he agreed with the Member that a fall in recycling rates across the country could be attributed to changes in behaviour. He advised that the level of packaging processed through the MRF was the same, but the volume of material was lighter. He added that the inclusion of street sweepings in the recycling rate, with any increase in street cleansing effectiveness could have the effect of increasing our non-recycled waste. 


The Portfolio Holder for Place shared the regret, but appreciated that food waste collection would be a cost to the Council, when financial consideration was vital in such times of austerity and cuts.  However, this did remain a long term ambition as well as taking any opportunity for revenue generation through the MRF.  He commented on the options and possible further consideration in the future and he acknowledged that the cheapest option was not necessarily what was best for the residents of Exeter. The Member Champion for Communities and Food Recycling also referred to his role as Chair of Devon Authorities Strategic Waste Committee and it should be acknowledged that Exeter’s recycling culture was quite significant even to the extent of taking in recycling from other Devon authorities. He echoed the Portfolio Holder Place’s view, that whilst it remained a key aspiration to introduce a food waste collection, this could put the broader service at risk and effect the recycling and residual waste collections. This was not what Exeter deserved, hence the commitment to look at an annual review to identify the best time for introduction of any system for Exeter’s residents. He invited the Cleansing and Fleet Manager to describe how the MRF made a difference with its infra-red technology and opportunities to bolster the existing recycling service in Exeter.


Place Scrutiny Committee noted the current and planned measures to improve the recycling rate achieved by the current service; and supported approval by the Executive of the following:-


(1)     Exeter City Council should continue to provide the current recycling service (described as the ‘baseline’ in the circulated report); and

(2)     that officers provide an annual update on the food waste business case in the Recycling Plan, presented to Place Scrutiny Committee.


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