Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge residents look set to see their bin collection days change next year as part of a revamp of Somerset’s waste services.
Somerset currently sees weekly kerbside recycling collections following the introduction of Recycle More between June 2020 and February 2022, with refuse collections moving from fortnightly to once every three weeks.
Somerset Council, which controls the county’s waste services, has announced plans to change the collection schedule for the majority of households in a bid to cut costs and make collections more “efficient, manageable and reliable”.
If approved by the council’s executive committee, the changes could start to be rolled out from February 2024.
The current offering, Recycle More, was originally rolled out using the boundaries of the four former districts, with the former Mendip area being the first to receive the new service and the former West Somerset area being the last.
The council says that this model led to “substantial routing inefficiencies”, with its contractor Suez having to put in additional resources to ensure all bins could be collected.
It adds that the current collection routes are running at “maximum capacity”, meaning there is little flexibility for vehicle breakdowns or extreme weather such as storms, flooding and snowfall which has resulted in large numbers of missed collections.
The council said that Suez’s waste crews were “working under exceptionally difficult circumstances” and that making changes would improve working conditions as well as cutting carbon emissions. Under the proposals, collection days will be changed in two phases, focussing on different sides of the county.
Phase one, which may be implemented in February 2024, will see collection days change for more than 122,000 households in the western half of Somerset – including the former Sedgemoor district (with Bridgwater, Burnham-On-Sea, Cheddar, Highbridge and North Petherton).
In phase two, which could begin in June 2024, a further 96,000 households in the east of the county will see their dates change including the former Mendip district (which includes Frome, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet, Street and Wells).
The exact details of the changes has not yet been announced. However, the planned changes will not affect collections from schools or communal properties, and garden waste collection dates will also not change.
Mike Cowdell, the council’s strategic manager for waste services, said that affected households would receive direct communication informing them if their collection dates change at least six weeks prior to the new dates being implemented.
He added: “The purpose of the change in collection days is to allow Suez to make their service offering more efficient, manageable and reliable.”
“The main objective of the proposal is to afford Suez the opportunity to optimise their routes, to reduce the amount of fleet and staff required to service the contract.”
“By having more efficient routes, Suez anticipate a significant reduction in overtime costs as well as a reduction in fuel costs and associated CO2 savings.”
These proposals come shortly after the council declared a financial emergency, with councillors and officers warning of a £100m budget gap caused predominantly by rising demand and expense on children’s services and adult social care.
The council said that the proposals to change bin collection dates had been explored before the financial emergency was declared in early-November, and were not solely motivated by saving money.
A spokesman said: “The re-routing was in the works before the financial emergency was declared. It’s about making routes more efficient, more manageable for crews, and less carbon intensive as well as more cost-effective. This change will not result in other aspects of our contract with Suez being renegotiated.”
A final decision on the changes to bin collections dates will be taken by the council in the coming weeks, notes the Local Democracy Reporting Service.