Removal of Communal Recycling Facilities Managed by Cornwall Council

Please ensure you have ordered recycling bags and box to keep recycling at home

I thought it worth me providing some factual background information that has led to the decision to remove Cornwall Council funded communal recycling facilities, including those in Pendeen and St Just. It might help to dispel some myths and misunderstandings.

Back in 2017, Cornwall Council examined what residents were putting in their black bags and wheeled bins. They found that 22% of stuff could have already been recycled by residents and a further 35% was food waste (made up of peelings, bones and uneaten foods). Councils that have much higher recycling rates than Cornwall all collect food waste separately. The other key to Councils having higher recycling rates is that they restrict the amount of residual waste people can put out.

Accommodation for holiday makers, whether self catering, camping/ caravan sites or Bed and Breakfast are all businesses. Under our National laws they are required to provide privately funded waste collection services to their guests and not use domestic waste services. Penwith District Council had a very lax attitude to this and allowed them to use the domestic waste services (including providing them with a wheelie bin), funded by council tax payers like you and I. Many of those holiday businesses, particularly the holiday lets, pay no council tax or business rates as they are classed as small businesses and get 100% business rates relief.

Only residential properties, that are council tax rated, are eligible to use doorstep waste and recycling collections, council funded (not supermarket funded) communal recycling facilities in local communities and household waste and recycling facilities like the one at St Erth. The community recycling facilities throughout Cornwall, like those in St Just and Pendeen, only account for 1% of Cornwall’s household (domestic) recycling and some of that is from businesses who should be paying privately to have it collected. So, of Cornwall’s collected recycled materials, 99% are picked up directly from residents’ homes.

It has taken Cornwall Council a number of years to tackle this abuse which is a burden to council tax payers, and the new waste contract that rolls out in 2021 has an incentive to the contractor to end the abuse entirely.

Since 2018, when Cornwall Council funded an industrial shredder capable of cutting up bulky waste like settees and mattresses, no domestic waste from Cornwall’s residents goes to landfill. Any domestic waste that cannot be recycled is taken to Cornwall’s Energy Recovery Centre to be burned to produce electricity.

The Council’s waste policy (this can be found on its website) is to encourage residents to live their lives conserving the planets precious resources so wants people to think about how they can firstly reduce the amount of stuff, packaging, excess and single use items, that actually gets in our homes; it then wants to encourage re-use so asks people to buy things they can repeatedly use, and even when they have finished with it or it breaks down, can go to a local charity shop or be repaired. The Council hopes to set up re-use facilities for larger items at its household waste and recycling centres, where space allows; so, only if we cannot reduce or re-use should we be recycling and then throwing away (to generate electricity).

It is encouraging that many communities, like our own in St Just, have established Repair Cafes; although sadly, like many good things, this is on hold during the COVID crisis.

The decision to remove all Cornwall Council funded community based recycling facilities was taken during discussions to renew the waste contract. The council’s decision will not affect those collection points in supermarkets in Penzance so, those that shop outside our Parish will still have that option to recycle when they shop.

Cornwall Council did ask all Town and Parish Councils, where communal recycling bins are provided, whether they wanted to take over the community facility. Some decided to do that and others, like St Just, found it was too expensive a facility to expect residents to fund through additional council tax payments to the Town Council. If a significant number of residents disagreed with that view and could show people locally were prepared to pay for the service to be re-instated, they could take that evidence to the Town Council.

Essentially, Cornwall Council concluded the cost of emptying communal recycling facilities is disproportionate to the legitimate domestic items collected, both financially and in terms of carbon emissions from the vehicles having to travel throughout the Duchy.

At the moment, because there are waste and recycling bins at the sites in Pendeen and St Just, that is a place people go with rubbish and leave it there whether the bins are full or not. Residents who live opposite facilities complain to me about the flow of vehicles, the fly tipping attracted and the noise when the containers are emptied. They also tell me of the abuse from businesses and are more keen to see the facility go.

Of course, once these recycling facilities go, we will gain some additional parking spaces and the residents’ survey for the neighbourhood plan shows that is something local people strongly support. In terms of visitors, as it will no longer be a designated area for waste and recycling there is no reason to believe they will consider leaving it there. Businesses are starting to spring up locally to engage with holiday premises to offer waste and recycling collection services, and more and more are signing up to do the right thing. Hopefully residents too will adapt and change but, in the short term, the street cleaning teams will monitor the situation.

At the early stages of the new waste contract negotiations, Cornwall Council had hoped to adopt the proven waste contract specifications of Wales, as they have the highest recycling rates in the UK. This was based on collecting recyclable materials from each home weekly and adding in food waste collections. This alongside reducing the residual waste collections (that which cannot be recycled) to fortnightly. This at a time that many councils have or are moving to 3-weekly collections of residual waste and a few looking at monthly. Sadly the cost of that ideal contract was judged to place too great a financial burden on council tax payers so, apart from collecting food waste weekly from 2021, other recycling will continue to be collected fortnightly.

So, the new door to door waste contract that will start to be rolled out during 2021, is based on evidence from other Councils that it will increase the rate of recycling considerably. My regret, in looking for savings in the contract is that we were not bolder in following the evidence; we should (in my opinion) be proposing collecting recycling weekly and reducing the residual waste collections further.

Plastic Art MRF

Art from plastic outside the Materials Recycling Facility in Bodmin

I am very aware of the storage challenge for some residents in flats or terraced homes without much garden. I would encourage neighbours that lack storage space to collaborate together so that one gathers all their cardboard and another all the plastic and tins say. Those where storage is not a problem, perhaps they have a garden shed, you can request additional bags if you cannot reduce the amount of packaging collected when they shop (a better option for all of us). There is no charge or penalty for putting additional recycling bags out although there might be fines for people who refuse to recycle or who put out side waste, once their new wheelie bin is full.

I am fighting for recycling on the move bins around our town which will allow drinks cans and plastic bottles to be recycled separately from general litter and dog poo. That would help some visitors and residents dispose of easy to recycle items, whilst they are out and about.

Those people with real concerns about how they will manage without the communal recycling facility should contact the waste team as suggested on the notices at the facility (wastemanagement@cornwall.gov.uk is the team’s email). You can order bags and boxes for recycling on Cornwall Council’s website, although there can be a delay of up to 6 weeks to get them out to people (sorry).