Council Considering Scrapping Blue Waste Bags

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Proposals to reduce the number of blue rubbish bags supplied to households or stop supplying them entirely will be discussed by Wokingham Borough Council’s decision makers as they strive to protect vital services for the most vulnerable in the face of unprecedented financial pressure.

Due to rampant inflation, the council’s current funding allocated to waste can now only pay for 54 bags. As a result of this, the authority’s decision-making executive will consider two options at their meeting on 29 September: to reduce the number of blue bags from 80 to 54 per year, which would allow the waste budget to stay as previously set instead of having to increase by £149,000, or stop supplying them altogether.

Stopping them would save £463,000 on the cost of the bags but could adversely affect recycling rates and this would cost the council in other, less obvious ways.

The proposed reduction to 54 blue bags per household per year is in line with the council’s 2021 ‘One Blue Bag’ campaign, which asked residents to try to reduce the amount of rubbish they put out by only using one bag per week.

A recent study found that nearly 57 per cent of material thrown into blue bags locally could have been recycled kerbside or at the household waste recycling centres. Reducing the number of blue bags per household would encourage residents to recycle more, and help towards the council’s environmental commitment including the climate emergency.

Cllr Ian Shenton, executive member for environment, sport and leisure said: “It costs us – and so taxpayers – a lot more to deal with waste than it does recycling, so people who are putting things like food, plastics and paper into their blue bags are effectively throwing away money – and nobody can afford to do that at the moment.”

Disposing of waste costs the council more than twice as much as disposing of recycling.

Much needed savings

The proposals on blue rubbish bags are one of the council’s many initiatives to cut down its day-to-day running costs, at a time when local authorities are facing their worst financial crises for generations, with spiralling inflation, reducing income and an increasing need to help residents.

Survey on potential future changes to waste and recycling collections

The council is launching a consultation in early October to ask residents for their views on potential future changes to the way waste and recycling are collected.

Wokingham borough is one of the few local authorities to still have weekly rubbish and recycling collections, but with rising costs this will soon become unsustainable, and the council wants to hear from residents about how potential future changes would impact them.

Waste Blue Bags Views

The council will be asking residents for their views on proposals like having food waste collected weekly, but with rubbish and recycling collected on alternate weeks. A change like this could save about £1 million per year and increase the recycling rate.

Postcards will soon be sent to every household in the borough with more information. All residents are invited to take part in the consultation from 10 October to 5 December on the council’s Engage platform (https://engage.wokingham.gov.uk/). Help taking the online survey will be available over the phone and in person, and paper and electronic copies (PDF format) will also be available on request.

Cllr Ian Shenton, executive member for environment, sport and leisure said: “These changes make perfect sense because they are in line with the previously set budget and in line with our commitment to protect the environment. The financial pressures on us are immense and we must find ways to re-work our services to ensure we continue to protect our most vulnerable residents.

“Most people and most families should be able to make do with one blue bag of rubbish per week – use the food waste recycling collections, use the green waste collections, and recycle all your plastics, paper and card and tins. This is an easy saving for us to make.

“However, that won’t be enough. We just aren’t going to be able to continue with our waste and recycling collections as they are now – we are one of the few areas in the country that still collect everything every week. If we alternate rubbish one week and recycling the next, for example, while keeping food waste collections weekly, we will save around £1 million per year.

“This money would then be available to spend on our elderly, our children, our most in need. I think it’s the right thing for us to do, but we want to hear from residents about how it would impact them. We’ll be launching a consultation in a couple of weeks and we want to hear from as many residents as possible. More information will be coming out about this soon.”