Merton to provide new improved waste collection service

Merton Council agreed last week (15 December) to implement changes to its waste collection services that will deliver improved quality customer service as well as increased financial efficiency.

From the 23 February 2009 the council’s waste collection teams will be given colour-coded zones in which to work. The new zonal system will increase efficiency and flexibility as all the council’s waste collection and street cleansing resources will be deployed to one of five zones each day instead of working in disparate parts of the borough. Street cleansing will follow the refuse collection on the same day and collections will continue to be weekly.

By concentrating resources in one zone each day, supervision of staff will be much more effective and the crews will be on hand to support each other should operational issues arise.

The new waste collection system will lead to changes in waste collection days for most residents. Although matching the days to the zones is yet to be finalised, the zone colours will be: blue, purple, green, orange and red.

In addition to this, recycling will be made easier for residents as from the 23 February they will be able to mix all their recyclable materials together in their recycling boxes. This change should help further increase Merton’s recycling rate, which at 30% (18,900 tonnes per year), currently exceeds government targets. However, to meet the tighter year-on-year targets set by central government and the EU, Merton must more than double its recycling rate to around 42,000 tonnes of household waste per year by 2020.

Prior to the start of the new service the council will send a leaflet to households detailing which zone the household is in and the relevant collection day. It will also identify what can and cannot be recycled.

From the 23 February the council will no longer be asking residents to separate their recyclable waste into paper and glass in one box and plastic bottles, cardboard, cans and cartons in another. However, Merton Council is keen to reassure residents that the materials will be sorted before they are sent on to specialist recycling companies and turned into new products.

A consultation on waste and recycling with residents earlier this year showed that of the 13,000 people who responded to questions about changing services, more than 97% of residents said they would accept short-term disruption to the waste and recycling service if it led to better or increased services, more recycling and reduced reliance on landfill. The consultation also showed that out of the 4,906 residents who answered questions on recycling, 4,119 (84%) recycled either everything or most materials. Four hundred and seventy-eight residents (9.7%) recycle a little while just 306 (6.2%) of respondents said they recycled nothing.

Merton Council cabinet member for the environment Councillor David Simpson said: ‘We make every effort to listen to our residents and their needs so we can deliver value for money services. The new zonal collections will lead to around £50,000 annual savings, offering better value for money to our residents and providing them with an improved service. The new system will also make it easier to extend our recycling service as and when funds become available, for example providing kitchen waste collections, although this will not be for about 18 months.

“Our summer consultation showed that many people recycle but we still need to increase the amount the borough recycles as a whole. The easier we make recycling the more we’ll recycle. Continuing to send rubbish to landfill is no longer a sustainable option both environmentally or financially so we all have to play our part in reducing the amount of waste we generate in the first place and recycle as much as we can of the waste we do generate. Every tonne recycled is one less tonne sent to landfill.’

-ENDS-

Notes to editors
1. Residents should put out their rubbish and recyclable materials by 6am on the day of collection at the edge of their property and not on the pavement.
2. Landfill tax: Local councils have to pay a tax for every tonne of waste they send to landfill. The amount of tax that a council has to pay depends on the weight of the material the council sends to landfill and the kind of waste the council is disposing of. The standard rate of landfill tax is £32 per tonne, up from £24 in 2007. Over the next two years the tax will increase by £8 each year, reaching £48 in 2010-2011. From 2011 the Landfill Tax will continue to increase at a standard rate yet to be set by central government.
3. Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme: Through the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme each Waste Disposal Authority across the country has a fixed amount of waste they can dispose of to landfill. The amount landfilled must decrease to meet European Union landfill targets. Landfill sites give off greenhouse gases so reducing landfill will reduce the release of these damaging gases into the environment.
4. As a member for the South London Waste Partnership, Merton applied to Defra last month for £109 million Private Finance Initiative funding to help finance a state-of-the-art waste management facility. Such a facility would reduce the amount of waste the boroughs send to landfill and in turn will reduce the amount of money the councils would have to pay to central government in fines and landfill taxes. Any funding for improving waste management in the future would only be granted if Merton and the other partnership boroughs (Croydon, Kingston and Sutton) achieve more than 50% recycling and composting of household waste by 2020.