Green Party and fortnightly bin collections

Liverpool Green Party is calling on all households to recycle more and to make the best of the new situation where the council is imposing a service reduction, moving from weekly to fortnightly collection of general waste for more than half of the houses in the city.

Green councillors, candidates and activists want to help people through this transition and to pick up and solve any particular problems that may emerge. Now that it’s happening we have to all try to recycle more and make the new arrangements work.

We have flagged up likely problems where houses in multiple occupation, or flats, share a group of bins. We think this type of dwelling should have kept a weekly collection,at least for now, until well known problems with bins left out on pavements are solved. We didn’t win that argument.

A badly made decision – but was it the right decision in the end?

Residents will remember that the Mayor gave a quite unnecessary pledge in his 2012 manifesto

I promise to keep weekly bin collections.”

The full text is at

He was continuing the pattern of politicising the bin collections, a pattern set by the previous Lib Dem administration.

Earlier, Green councillor John Coyne had tried to take the politics out of the bins, for example see the motion (Item 17) at this committee meeting in 2011

The text of the motion is below. Unfortunately the other parties were not willing to agree it.

Committee notes reports that more than half of local authorities in England have moved away from weekly collection of general household waste and that they point to opportunities to provide improved waste collection services, in particular by having a separate food waste collection.

Committee recalls, however, that in the May election all parties on the City Council gave undertakings to retain a weekly collection for general rubbish.  Committee considers that it is essential that those undertakings are honoured for the next four years, even at the cost of forgoing early opportunities to provide better waste collection arrangements.

Committee resolves to facilitate the emergence of a rational consensus so that a cross-party approach to waste collection policy for Liverpool can be formulated for the future.”

Liverpool’s bid for government cash to keep weekly collections

Central government was willing to give us £10m to support new recycling schemes and keep weekly general waste collection. For the first 6 months of the Mayor’s office it looked like he was going to keep his promise, using that that money.

To be fair to the administration it looks like a change of cabinet responsibilities and a change of senior management helped to weaken the grip on decision making. It may have led to decisions taken in haste without full examination of the options.

The report that eventually came to the council meeting showed that most of this £10m would have been taken up in swapping out large purple bins for smaller purple bins. Only a quarter of it would be used to create weekly recycling collections for terraced houses – a service level improvement, but for less than half of the city. The report did not consider any better uses of the government’s £10m – like a better recycling service for everybody. The full report is here:-

The report pointed out the risks of moving from large (240 litre) to small (140 litre) wheelie bins: it was hoped to “nudge” people into more recycling, but warned“ when there is an enforced and significant reduction in available storage capacity to residents, they are very likely to contaminate recycling containers to relieve pressure on their residual waste generation.

Exactly. But we see the same risk when a large container is emptied half as often – the current new arrangements being imposed.

It look a Freedom of Information request to see the conversation between Liverpool City Council and central government.

It is clear that the council could have changed its planned use of that £10m, increased the recycling collection frequency and CREATED JOBS. The key words are that there was no constraint on using the money for “capital” (i.e. the small wheelie bins) and it could have been used for “revenue” (i.e. more workers collecting the recycling).

But at the council meeting on 16th January we did not have the benefit of that information, just the one-sided report supporting the Mayor’s new position.

Item 122 at

Indeed, there was very little opportunity to question or debate the issues. Instead we saw an attempt to bully the Green Party into supporting a unanimous decision to stand on our heads. Both of the other opposition parties – Liberal Democrat and Liberal – voted for the fortnightly bin collections and only the Greens abstained. But we also sought to refer the decision back to the Mayor and if that had been done there would have been an opportunity to “call-in” the decision and take a proper look at it.

Since then, the Lib Dems have repudiated their own decision, but on the night they voted with the Mayor.

Do the costs stack up?

We still do not know how much money might be saved by going to fortnightly collections. One reason for that is the council depends on the agreement of the waste collection contractor –Amey – to reduce its bill for the reduced service level. Another uncertainty is the costs of landfill. The calculations on Landfill Tax have left out one big factor – most of Liverpool’s residual waste is going to be shipped to a combustion facility on Teeside and NOT PUT INTO LANDFILL.

The waste disposal authority’s announcement includes this: MRWA, through this contract will divert more than 90% of Merseyside and Halton’s residual waste away from landfill, and will ensure that this significant region complies with its requirements under the European Union Landfill Directive.”

But keep calm and recycle!

The notes above show that the council may well have made the wrong decision, but we are now stuck with it and we can all do our bit to recycle (and reduce re-use and compost) more.