Recycling staff helped get North Devon Council “out of the proverbial” following problems with the recently changed waste and recycling efforts.
The Recycle More project was launched on June 5 and aims to get North Devon recycling over 50% of its rubbish by 2020.
North Devon Council brought in a number of changes to its waste and recycling service at the beginning of June.
These included the introduction of a garden waste collection service, a weekly food waste service, and an improved recycling service trial as well as three weekly bin collections in a small area of the district.
However, North Devon Council came under criticism following the changes after several people complained that they had not yet received the new kerbside kitchen caddies for food waste or that their recycling collection has been missed.
Devon Live previously reported that staff were being offered double pay to help shift the missed recycling and to clear the backlog left on the streets.
The council held their monthly Overview and Scrutiny meeting on Thursday, July 6 and the issues surrounding the waste and recycling changes were discussed.
Before this some councillors wanted to clarify part of the reason as to why Councillor Rodney Cann, lead member for waste, was not present at the last Overview and Scrutiny meeting.
It was pointed out that the item of recycling was not on the previous agenda.
Councillor Cann then went on to address his fellow councillors regarding the changes to the waste and recycling in North Devon.He said: “We knew that the changes were going to be challenging.”
Mr Cann explained that the three week trial of the changes had been a “revelation”.
He said that he visited Bratton Fleming recently and was told that some residents’ collections had been missed.
However, he said: “There were about 50 people there. They gave a standing ovation to the wardens. I found this very encouraging.
“I apologise for the missed collections. At the end of the day we will have a service that we can be proud of.”
Ricky McCormack, head of operational services at the council, said there were some problems during the first week regarding food waste.
He said: “We had very hot weather. We had additional resources to help with demand.” He also said “tweaks” had been made and the services are being monitored.
Mr McCormack said: “The amount of food waste anticipated was higher than expected which pushed those rounds over.
“We have purchased another vehicle that is going out on some of the larger rounds to pick up food waste. That has made a significant difference.”
Backup response teams were put in place and staff were encouraged to work on Saturday as well as agency staff being used to help clear the backlog.
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Mr McCormack said temporary crews from the rapid response team now had their own routes which he said “worked well”.
He said: “Yes, we still have missed collections, but that existed from previously.
“As the recycling vehicles come back we inspect them and weigh the amount of food waste to see what the spread is.”
Councillor John Matthews said he knew of a number of people who complained that because one item of food had not been wrapped then the whole caddie was left behind.
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Mr McCormack said: “The amount of food waste from day one took everyone by surprise, including collection staff.
“Some of the loose waste was semi-liquefied. We had a couple of guys who had splash back. We had some staff who were physically sick.”
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Devon Live previously reported that stickers were put on caddies reminding people that “for hygiene reasons and for the benefit and welfare of our collection crews, could you please wrap your food waste in either a compostable liner, newspaper or kitchen roll”.
Mr McCormack stated that a trial in Forches was “expected to be a difficult nut to crack”. However, he said in that week the amount of recycling almost doubled.
Councillor Frank Biederman said he thought “it was fantastic what we are trying to do here” but that “it can’t leave any of us but with anger about what the public have experienced”.
He said the public were angry and there seemed to be mixed messages about food being wrapped.
Mr Biederman also referred to the previous comments from Mr Cann regarding the round of applause given at Bratton Fleming.
However, he felt this round of applause was directed towards the crews rather than management. He said the crews “worked their socks off” to clear the blacklog.
Mr McCormack said that as well as some people complaining there were also many residents who were understanding.
He said: “Where there are problem areas please let us know. It was a challenging task we undertook.
Councillor Des Brailey addressed Councillor Biederman’s point but saying that “any applause was for a team effort” and that management had “worked hard to rectify” the situation.
Councillor Ian Roome said: “The operatives have been brilliant. What they have done to get us out of the proverbial is fantastic.”
The councillors heard that it was estimated that less than 200 caddies were yet to be delivered to premises.
Mr Cann also said: “I think the end result for North Devon will be pretty good.”
Source: Devon live