Agenda item

Introduction to the Review, Setting the Scoping Framework and Timescales

1.    To receive a brief introduction to the review from the Chair and Lead Officers.

2.    To discuss, amend (as necessary), and agree the scoping framework as attached.

3.    To determine any background information the Panel requires further to the information presented in the scoping framework.




Councillor Russell welcomed the Panel to the first meeting of the Waste and Recycling Review and provided some background information.


The purpose of the Panel was to look at how household waste recycling rates in Crawley could be improved, following the Notice of Motion (NOM) at Full Council in October 2023. There was a need to scrutinise the current situation and performance to improve Crawley’s household waste recycling rate, taking into account the differing challenges the Borough had in comparison to other areas, and explore the options available.


Associated and accompanying this, was the National Waste Strategy (Simpler Recycling) and how this would impact, but also seek to provide options for the changing collection regimes to improve the waste and recycling rates in the borough.  In addition to this, was improving awareness for residents and community engagement to improve the ability to recycle along with the new requirements to increase the waste and recycling rates.


It would be important for the Panel at end of each future meeting to think about what recommendations may be relevant for the final report as it was not advisable to wait until the last meeting and have to review each meeting in infinite detail.


The Chair then asked Nigel Sheehan, Head of Major Projects and Commercial Services and Lead Officer of the Panel, together with Paul Baker, Partnership Services Manager to provide some background information (attached as Appendix A to the minutes).


The Panel was informed that the current service locally operated on a 2-2-1 service (weekly residual waste, fortnightly dry recycling, paid fortnightly subscription garden waste). Across the collection regime there were approximately 50,000 collections per week. Nationally approximately only 17% of authorities had retained a weekly residual waste collection service and within West Sussex only Crawley and Arun operated this.


The service was delivered by Biffa Municipal (10 year contract), which had been extended for 2 years until April 2026 due to a response to the National Waste Strategy.  In terms of performance it was acknowledged that the partnership service was well regarded.  The continuity of service was highlighted during the Covid pandemic when the service had been maintained throughout that period. It was noted that sickness throughout the service was incredibly low compared to other authorities and the Panel recognised the commitment to staff engagement, morale, respect and recognition and it was felt there could be lessons to be learned indirectly from the positive results. 


With regards to recycling performance, across West Sussex the Council was performing the lowest for collecting recycling waste tonnage. However, there were significant factors and contextual issues that underpinned the performance figures. Only two authorities had retained the weekly residual waste collections (Crawley and Arun).  It was typical that where an authority had moved from a residual waste collection to one which was less frequent (fortnightly) this had resulted in higher recycling rates.  Additionally, the recycling figures included garden waste collections, but it was acknowledged that the borough had a large majority of flats relative to other districts and boroughs and consequently those collecting garden waste resulted in a greater tonnage of recycled material.  Finally, it was highlighted that typically the quality of recycled material retrieved from flats was lower and more was rejected from communal blocks and flats. However, this was a national trend and not specific to the town but would be an important factor to be considered for the new collection regimes.


The Panel was informed that work was being undertaken with consultants Ricardo in preparation for the new National Waste Strategy, and their work involved benchmarking and comparing local authorities.  A different group of local authorities had been provided, which were deemed to offer a more meaningful comparison and representation based on urban makeup, proportion of flats, demography and collection regime (WRAP rurality).  Throughout the analysis with the comparative authorities (WRAP rurality), the council was deemed to be performing above average.  Ricardo was currently undertaking further analysis and data was forthcoming.  It was felt beneficial for the Panel to receive this at a future meeting.


Information was then provided with regards to the National Waste Strategy.  In October 2023, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) launched the National Waste Strategy “Simpler Recycling” which would see some significant mandated changes to the collection regimes over the next few years.


Whilst this was still a final consultation at the time of the Panel’s meeting, in summary changes for the Council would see:

·         Standardised recycling and waste collections across the country (April 2026)

o   Residual (general, non-recyclable) waste collections to be collected (at least) fortnightly.

o   Garden waste will remain a subscription based fee-paying service.

o   Co-mingled recycling will continue to be collected on a fortnightly basis.

o   A separate weekly food waste and absorbent hygiene products collection will be mandated.

·         A separate soft plastics collection (crisp packets, cling film) will be required by March 2027.


In answering queries on the above, it was confirmed that there was an exception in determining physical space within communal blocks to provide a separate food waste collection bin and there was the potential that the current residual waste collection would continue.  There was a high probability that this may not be achievable at all flats or communal blocks. 


Confirmation was provided on the food waste disposal which would be handled as a separate waste disposal by WSCC as the disposal authority, with the end product being an energy product.  Implications for the council were currently being modelled in terms of vehicles, staffing and revenue costings. The Government had indicated there would be revenue support for waste collection authorities in response to the additional costs.  The Council would incur additional costs in terms of collecting the different waste streams and there would be some recovery from Government. WSCC should benefit in terms of landfill tax due to less amounts to landfill and any product generation should have a market value, however WSCC would have plant reconfiguration costs.


The food product that was collected currently in residual waste was not used as a bio-gas product but a low grade agricultural product.  The amount and quality of the material was paramount to identify the percentage of material to landfill or any product generation.  Future options would be important, and the Panel felt it would be beneficial to investigate collection regimes and methods (for example “smart sacks”) currently being undertaken at other urban local authorities.


To implement the above changes to any collection regime, the Council would need to agree a new specification for the new collection arrangements by September 2024 to meet a contract start date 1 April 2026.  It was highlighted at the Overview and Scrutiny Commission in January 2024 the importance of the implementation dates.  Consequently, it was suggested that it would be beneficial that the Scrutiny Panel would be a focused review comprising of a few sessions to enable a potential report in the autumn as this would coincide with a Cabinet report in autumn 2024.


Session 1

·         Background and Scoping

Session 2

·         Simpler Recycling - Local Delivery and Projection Impacts (recycling, carbon, operational) with consultants subject to dates and availability.

Session 3

·         Recycling Performance Local Interventions

·         Simpler Recycling – Crawley Implementation

Session 4

·         Conclusions and Recommendations


It was acknowledged that Ricardo was currently modelling the impact of the changes outlined in the National Waste Strategy as this would affect but also provide options for the changing collection regimes to improve the waste and recycling rates in the borough.  This work would be completed May 2024.  It was agreed that it would be beneficial for Ricardo to attend the next meeting of the Panel (subject to dates and availability) to present findings (session 2). It would be important to analysis the council’s performance in the context of the current regime to highlight lessons to be learned to take forward into the new regimes.


The Panel recognised that there would be merit in analysing the interventions being undertaken locally (flats and communal blocks), the challenges the National Waste Strategy would bring such as the introduction of food waste collections, together with customer and resident engagement (session 3).


It was recognised that it would be important to learn from other local authorities, however it was noted that recycling was not the ideal way to reduce waste but also there was the need to reduce overall waste and encourage producers to rethink packaging.  It was confirmed that the waste hierarchy was ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’. Within the National Waste Strategy there was the “extender producer responsibility” which equated to packaging tax and this may come back to waste collection authorities to support the additional burden costs for collecting food waste.  There was a role for the council to assist in promoting and encouraging the hierarchy and waste improvement, reduction and minimisation of packaging and it was anticipated this could be covered at a future Panel meeting (potentially session 3).


Panel Members then discussed the draft scoping framework. There was a general view that the scope should acknowledge customer and resident engagement. It was felt it may be beneficial to have a brief online survey to ascertain the impediments to recycling.  Advance notice would be required from Communications to action, although should this not be feasible, further (online) research could be undertaken with other local authorities with regards to their collection regimes and the impediments to recycling.


It was noted that other surveys had been undertaken with regards to the barriers to recycling, and part of the National Waste Strategy was to eliminate confusion over what can be recycled in different bins.  The introduction of a single system across the country would potentially make things clearer for households. 


Concerns were raised that the National Waste Strategy was highlighted throughout the scoping framework, and it was recognised that this was a “step change” to the collection change regime to improving recycling rates.  The NOM requested the OSC Chair looked into setting up a cross party Scrutiny Panel “to look at how household waste recycling rates in Crawley can be improved” and reviewing the National Waste Strategy was not explicitly included in the NOM.  Other Panel Members commented that there was a strong link between the waste collection strategy and the level of recycling. It would be important to analyse the council’s current performance in the context of the current regime and reasons as this would assist in identifying challenges.  This would highlight lessons learned and improvements both now, and also to take forward into the new regimes when the National Waste Strategy becomes mandated to improve the waste and recycling rates in the borough.


The context for the National Waste Strategy was to achieve a ‘step change’ approach in recycling performance and the best way to achieve that was to investigate the collection regime.  The Panel may wish to consider how to obtain the best results possible, as a result of analysing the current regime for lessons learned and then for the options available moving forward for 2026.


It was felt “the Panel would seek to find ways to understand impediments to recycling in the borough and also consider ways to inform residents/customers of proposed changes to waste collection to maximise levels of recycling”.


The Scoping Framework was agreed, subject to the amendments noted above, as set out as Appendix B.



1.    That evidence gathering session be arranged with Ricardo (to ascertain current performance).

2.    That the Scoping Framework was agreed (subject to the above amendments) as set out as an appendix to these minutes.

3.    That officers investigate the potential for an online survey.

4.    That further research be undertaken with other local authorities with regards to their collection regimes and the impediments to recycling.

Supporting documents: