The Conservative Leadership of Shropshire Council is beginning to recognise that its indecision and lack or urgency are resulting in unsustainable environmental and financial damage.
On the 15th July 2021, the Green group presented a motion to Shropshire Council showing that the Council had one of the very worst records in the country for the amount of household waste it collects. Recognising the environmental and financial consequences of this it required the production of a Waste Minimisation Strategy with a target of a 25% reduction in waste by 2025. In the debate we explained that the Council could use the opportunity of providing new recycling wheeled bins to encourage residents to have smaller bins for their residual waste, a policy that has been effective in other Councils.
The motion was lost when all Conservative Councillors voted against it with the Leader saying it was a bad idea.
Roll forward a little more than one year and the Leadership has performed a U-turn and is proposing a waste minimisation strategy on the agenda for the Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 29th September. In the meantime they have rolled out most of the wheeled recycling bins, losing the chance to encourage residents to slim their bins and making action more difficult. Their prevarication has meant the problem has got worse with a 9% increase in waste arisings in a year making Shropshire Council the second worst performer in the whole country according to their own report.
Disposing of household waste costs the Council over £33m a year, far more than is spent on many services. Every tonne saved would save the Council £90. If our proposal had been accepted by the Conservatives, we would be well on the way to saving millions of pounds each year and tackling one of the main causes of carbon emissions.
On Thursday the Committee will not get a draft of the new strategy, or a timetable, or even any of the targets it would contain. It does, however, seek to re-employ two waste minimisation officer posts that were cut in 2015 in what was clearly a misjudged cut in services. Unjustified delay and prevarication like this are completely incompatible with the Climate Emergency we face and the environmental and financial consequences are being borne by all residents of Shropshire.
Council Duncan Kerr, Convenor of the Green Group on Shropshire Council.
Minutes of the motions submitted to Shropshire Council on the 15th July 2021.
The following motion has been received from Councillor Duncan Kerr and is supported by the Councillors Julian Dean, Julia Evans and Mike Isherwood: Waste Minimisation
“Shropshire Council has a recycling rate inside the top 50 in England (source: https://www.letsrecycle.com/councils/league-tables/2019-20-overall-performance). Unfortunately, the same data puts us in the top 5 authorities in the country when it comes to total household waste arisings per household. The consequence of this is that we are at the top of our family group for the costs of waste collection and disposal. There may be all sorts of nuances and caveats to these figures, but the result is that we are producing a lot of household waste and it is costing a lot to process and that has environmental and economic impact. Indeed, Shropshire with a recycling rate of some 55% sends almost as much waste to landfill (222kgs) as neighbouring Herefordshire with a recycling rate of just 41% (228kgs) (source lets recycle data for 2019.20). That’s why the waste hierarchy places waste minimisation at the top and why is a key part of the fifth Carbon budget from the Committee for Climate Change (https://www.theccc.org.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2016/07/5CB-Infographic-FINAL-.pdf).
Back in 2010 Shropshire Council approved a waste minimisation plan which aimed to reduce total waste arisings per person by 10% by 2015. The target was not reached then and has still not been reached some eleven years later. Currently we are still producing some 490kgs of waste per person. It is therefore proposed that as a matter of urgency the portfolio-holder revisits the waste hierarchy and produces a waste minimisation for the County by December 2021. Given the scale of the climate emergency we now face, and the need to catch-up on previous failed initiatives, it is proposed that the new target should be a 25% reduction in waste arisings per person by 2025. This would take our waste arisings down to 367kgs per person just below the current England average of 373 kgs and assumes no improvement by any other authority. Such a policy would also complement any initiative by the Council to improve recycling by replacing crates with wheeled bins.
It is, we suggest, the bare minimum step we should be doing. We are sure that many members of the local community with expertise in this area would assist the Council in developing such an approach and there is much good practice available on-line. Some measures that may be considered if preparing this strategy may have resource implications. The comparative data from CIPFA shows that authorities who produce less waste spend less in processing and disposing of it which is why our comparative costs are so high. Although a very small part of the waste stream is land-filled with a land-fill tax on active waste now £96 per tonne savings from reducing waste can be significant and will more than off-set any upfront costs so it would be a prudent use of the Council invest to save resources”.
The motion was seconded by Councillor Mike Isherwood