To consider the report of the Director Net Zero Exeter and City Management.
The Director Net Zero Exeter and City Management presented the update report on Food Waste Collection. The report included as an appendix the report on Exeter Combined and Kerbside Recycling Services Comparison produced in June 2021 by Apse solutions. The Director’s report set out the following:-
· timeline, original plans and how the Council got to where it is now;
· impact - the outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic;
· impact - shift in shopping and waste habits;
· impact - vehicle testing and planning review;
· impact - the HGV/LGV driver crisis;
· decision to retain the current service model with added food waste collection;
· benefits of retaining co-mingled collections and added food waste;
· how the first phase of the food waste service is performing;
· next steps and challenges; and
· other related projects.
The Waste Collection Manager advised that the collection of food waste in the pilot area of Alphington had commenced and was progressing well. The service would start tipping in the City Council yard from 7 April 2022, in new sealed food waste skips, rather than a long trip to Greendale. This would free up some time and would allow the service to be extended to include additional streets in Alphington as soon as possible. He also referred to recruitment challenges and necessary upgrades to the depot.
The following responses were given to Members’ queries:-
· due to a number of issues, it was difficult to anticipate when the full roll-out of the scheme would commence and how many rounds would be added. Future rollout was dependent on the availability of drivers, vehicles, tipping facilities and on the announcement of legislation and Government funding;
· at present, only small food waste skips were being used at the depot in compliance with the Council’s environmental operating permit. The larger permanent food waste bays were being designed now by a specialist who would be retained to oversee the procurement and project management of the new facility, including securing a licence from the Environment Agency. The Environment Agency set high standards with regard to odour and fly/pest control and a sealed drainage system was required by the Agency to prevent food liquors etc. seeping into the water courses and sewers;
· in respect of the timescale for delivery, the Pandemic had caused a significant delay, added to which was the time it took to procure vehicles. Although vehicles were now rented, the cost of purchasing a single electric refuse vehicle was in the region of £470,000. It had not been possible to commit to obtaining new vehicles before assessing the impact of the proposed changes to waste and recycling collections which are subject to a much delayed Government consultation. The design of the vehicles would be progressed following the Government announcement in respect of waste collection generally, including the Deposit Return Scheme, although there was no indication when an announcement would be made. Once the uncertainty relating to the Government announcement was resolved, work could commence on re-purposing existing refuse vehicles if possible or purchasing new ones, as it would only be then when container size could be specified;
· the difficulty in recruiting additional drivers and loaders had been exacerbated by the imminent retirement of two staff members. Although the private sector hourly rates for drivers were similar to those of the Council, the longer hours on offer were often more attractive to employees, especially a younger cohort. For loader positions, the Council was competing against the rapidly expanding warehousing and logistics industry, where good rates of pay and the indoor nature of many of these jobs was very appealing;
· recruitment was also hampered by the high level of vacancies in the overall job market;
· although the current re-cycling rate of 27% was low, it was anticipated that it would rise to over 50% with the full implementation of the rollout. Whilst the current North Devon rate was 53%, this reflected a greater volume of residual waste collected. Future reports on the City Council service would reflect these metrics;
· the City Council charged other authorities for the use of its Materials Reclamation Facility (MRF) thereby generating a profit from the separated materials. This has had to stop for the time being as the MRF was too unreliable to guarantee the service. The proposed investment would modernise the MRF, increase throughput, improve recovery rates and make this service viable again;
· although the national pay scale was used, the individual rate for loaders/drivers was not nationally agreed. The pay rates for agency loaders was broadly similar, but greater for drivers. The number of agency staff had been reduced during the Pandemic for safety reasons and this level was being maintained; and
· the report included a schedule of frequently asked questions which will be included on the City Council web site as the most appropriate means of updating the public on the progress of the rollout.
The Portfolio Holder for City Management referred to issues around extended producer responsibility relating to the huge volume of packaging involved in food etc. deliveries to supermarkets etc. which was being examined by the Government. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the many issues referred to, he urged patience regarding the full rollout and asked all to commit to the agreed system and not seek an alternative which would incur additional costs and, potentially, reputational damage.
Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee noted the report and thanked the Director, the Waste Collection Manager and the Cleansing Services Team for their work.