Tuesday 29 April 2014

Rubbish statistics - Updated

According to Carmarthenshire County Council's press office (story here) which knows a thing or two about toxic effluent, the county is "winning the race towards zero waste", and is not only the top performing Welsh local authority when it comes to waste recycling, but second in a list of 172 authorities in Britain compiled by Resource magazine.

Cllr Colin Evans (Lab), member of the council's Executive Board, says that all the council's hard work is paying off, while the Director of Technical Services, Richard Workman, is delighted that Carmarthenshire is performing so well.

The Resource article can be found here, and to view the league table click on "United Countries" at the bottom of the piece.

As always with statistics it depends which end of the kaleidoscope you are looking through, but in terms of the percentage of household waste which is recycled in Wales, Denbighshire (58.1%) and Monmouthshire (58.4%) both outperform Carmarthenshire (56.8%).

The statistics relate to 2012/13, and the Resource article notes that for the first time since it began compiling its league table, a majority of councils in the UK saw a decrease in their recycling rates. Compared with most other councils, however, Carmarthenshire was doing a good job.

Coming up to date there is probably less cause for celebratory press releases and back slapping.

At the beginning of this year the council announced that it would be terminating its contract with the AWS household waste recycling centre at Llangadog. The site serves a large area in the north-east of the county, and is the only waste recycling centre not to be run by CWM Environmental, the council's wholly-owned subsidiary.

The aim of the closure was to save £250,000, although local campaigners pointed out that the net saving would probably be rather less as it was likely to lead to an increase in fly tipping.

The centre also employs 10 people, and considering the service that is provided and the benefits to the community and the environment, that is a bargain compared with some of the other job creation schemes championed by the council (Towy Community Church's bowling alley being just one). Somehow, it is doubtful that Kevin Madge will be very keen on telling people in his area how he approved a scheme to cut jobs.

The remarkable thing about the Llangadog centre is that it achieves recycling rates in the range of 80-85%. Responding to a letter from fellow blogger Pat Racher Dodd, the council's Technical Services Director, Richard Workman, said, “We recycle in excess of 55% of what we collect which is above the government target.”

In response to protests, the council eventually backed down and agreed to extend the contract for the Llangadog site for another year, albeit on amended conditions. Whether it survives next year's round of cuts remains to be seen.

Colin Evans's message seems to be that recycling is OK as long as the council can tick the right boxes in government surveys, but anything more than that is a waste.


Response from John Rees, Managing Director of CWM Environmental

There is an obvious thread in a number of your most recent blogs linking CWM Environmental to Carmarthenshire County Council.

Yes the Company is owned by Carmarthenshire and ultimately they can decide on its fate. The thinly veiled innuendo of day to day control and influence however, could not be further from the truth.

We survive on being commercial, competitive (speak to Ceredigion on the collection and processing of their kerbside recyclate) and reinvesting. A straight forward search on the Company would show we do not have any Councillors on the Board. There are independent non-executive Board Directors who are appointed by the Council to oversee governance and compliance with company law and that’s it!

The real point you air brush out is whether services provided to the Council do actually provide value for money from any contractor and do they contribute towards the delivery of the waste strategy .In CWM’s case all the Company’s  investment in infrastructure does that. In the last 5 years this has exceeded £3m .This investment would otherwise fall on the ratepayers of Carmarthenshire, what other contractor does that?

In the meantime we employ over 60 local people and through our Environmental Fund grant aided over 80 projects throughout the County to date, what other contractor does that?

Oh! And in your ‘filltir sgwar’, 9 projects totalling over £200,000, with another one to consider in the May round of bids. So it’s not just  about the one project in Johnstown you harp on about.

John Rees (1 of 62 employees of the Company who care for what we do and achieve in Carmarthenshire)

Cneifiwr writes  I would like to thank Mr Rees for getting in touch and putting his point of view across. I would also be very pleased to publish a list of the projects which have benefited from the Environmental Fund.


Anonymous said...

Re Llangadog Site - it received £250,000 per annum to run the service for 1 2years .
Who gave them such a good contract ?

ZBD said...

In an effort to hit their targets, the local authority specifies that every household is only allowed to put out four bags of general waste every fortnight. There are some exceptions for families with a number of children.

If people place out more than the four bags of waste, the excess waste is left behind on the street.

Similarly, if bags of recyclable waste are contaminated, with items that cannot be recycled, these too are left behind.

Every local authority in England and Wales has a statutory obligation to collect waste.(See Section 45 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (E.P.A.) ).

A Waste collection authority (i.e. Carmarthenshire County Council) also has a statutory obligation to ensure that our streets are free of litter and refuse (See Section 89 E.P.A.)

When you drive around Carmarthenshire, you'll see many areas strewn with litter and waste.

The law provides that the public can complain about the local authority, for not keeping the streets and public places clean and free of waste. They can - if they so wish - go to the Magistrates and lodge a complaint against the County Council, for their failure to adhere to the requirements of the E.P.A.

If Magistrates concur, they can fine the County Council.

The Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science were asked to undertake research on the causes of fly tipping. This established that a major contributory factor was the charges waste collection authorities impose, for the collection of bulk items of household waste and business waste.

From 2004 to 2010 Investigations into fly tipping incidents on private land were undertaken by the County Council's Technical Services. If you were to trawl back through local newspaper reports, you'll see that the local authority had a considerable number of successful prosecutions for fly tipping on both private and public land.

In 2010, for reasons best known to themselves, the County Council's senior management decided to shift the responsibility for investigating fly tipping on private land, to the so called Public Protection Department.

Since that time, there have been no successful prosecutions for fly tipping offences, other than on the public highway and land owned by the County Council.

Instead the Public Protection serve statutory notices on land owners, requiring them to clear up the dumped items. This means they are victims of the fly tippers and are then penalised by the local authority. If land owners fail to comply with a statutory notice, ordering them to remove the waste, the local authority could potentially be prosecuted.

These matters were drawn to the attention of the Council's senior management, but this was dismissed in their usual wooden and perfunctory manner.

Oh and just one more thing - I believe senior managers get a bonus for achieving their targets on recycling. It makes you wonder whether this isn't an incentive to 'massage' the statistics.

I have always wondered why public servants get bonuses merely for doing their job.

ZBD said...

Erratum - it's the private land owner who could be prosecuted for not clearing the waste from their land, not the local authority. (Put it down to my age, I am slowing down and easily get muddled - does that qualify me for a job with the Country Council?)