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East Herts householders set to get extra bin as district council attempts to cut refuse costs

Householders across East Herts are set to be issued with an extra bin as the district council attempts to cut refuse collection costs.

The new Green Party and Liberal Democrat coalition wants to revise proposals agreed by the previous Conservative administration in October 2022 for a new bin emptying and street cleaning contract.

Cllr Tim Hoskin, East Herts Council’s executive member for environmental sustainability, will outline the new options at a meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday (November 30).

Green Party Cllr Tim Hoskin
Green Party Cllr Tim Hoskin

In 2018, the authority implemented a shared service agreement with North Herts Council. It covers the collection of waste and recycling from about 124,000 households and 1,920 commercial customers as well as street cleaning services across both districts.

A new agreement is set to commence in 2025 – but councillors are warned the cost is likely to be “well in excess of” what was previously anticipated.

Cllr Hoskin’s report advocates the introduction of a weekly food waste collection service in East Herts with a three-weekly cycle for 180 litres of residual waste; paper and cardboard in a “fibre” bin; and a separate pick-up for “containers” – glass, plastic bottles, pots, tubs, trays, film, aluminium and steel cans. The total capacity over six weeks would be 1,458 litres with an estimated recycling rate of 58% to 60%.

Food waste
Food waste

The new regime would slightly reduce capacity for households, compared with the current set-up of alternating, fortnightly black bin and recycling collections, but offer more capacity than last October’s agreement. That stipulated three-weekly residual waste with fortnightly mixed dry recycling and a fortnightly paper box.

The major change is a dedicated “fibre” bin proposed for most properties. Households are set to be issued with a 180-litre purple-lidded bin to be used for residual waste. The existing residual waste bin would be used for “containers” and the existing recycling bin would be used for “fibre” – paper and cardboard.

The council anticipates lower costs with this model, in part due to operating standard body vehicles rather than split body vehicles and “collection route optimisation” over three weeks rather than two.

Maisonettes and terraced properties would be offered an opt-in choice whether they wish to have a bin or stick with their existing box.

East Herts bins
East Herts bins

The changes, based on the provision of 100,000 bins, would cost £2.29 million across both authorities.

Garden waste collections would remain fortnightly for those residents who subscribe to the service.

To further trim the new contract costs, councillors are considering slashing the number of litter bins across East Herts by 30%, with a total cut of 400 across both both districts. Cllr Hoskin’s report says “any changes will not affect bins in parks and open spaces”.

Rubbish collection stock image. Picture: Urbaser
Rubbish collection stock image. Picture: Urbaser

The “bulky waste” collection service for furniture etc would be cut from six items to three. Other changes relate to performance targets for refuse collection, bin replacements and street cleaning.

For example, the stipulation to collect a missed household bin by 5pm the next working day would drop to 72 hours – except when a whole street has been affected.

Cllr Hoskin’s report paints a stark financial picture for the committee. When the council set its budget, it assumed contract inflation of 4% in 2022-23 and 2.5% in the years after that. That estimate has been exceeded by £294,000 in 2022-23 and an estimated contract inflation of 18% next year will add further spending pressure of £568,000.

In the council’s medium-term financial plan, a £1m increase is factored into the waste budget from 2024-25 but inflation will erode this by at least £862,000.

The proposed design of waste services was anticipated to lead to new pressures of around £1.3m, but Cllr Hoskin warned: “Information from bidders during the competitive dialogue phase of the procurement have indicated costs will be well in excess of this.”

The net effect of inflationary pressures on total savings the council needs to find over the next five years is an increase from £1.6m to £3.1m. This is in addition to £5.054m in savings already built into the budget.

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