Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Monday 11 November 2013
1:45 p.m.
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

Councillor R Kerr (Chair), Councillor G B Clark (Vice Chair); Councillor R Brady, Councillor J G Cole and Councillor C Hobson.
A Crawford, J Dixon, D Donaldson and K Sherwood.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor D Davison and Councillor M Saunders
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

The Minutes of the Environment Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 21 October 2013 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a covering report to provide Members with information in relation to waste management, particularly the new recycling and refuse collection arrangements that had recently been introduced in Middlesbrough.


K Sherwood, Waste Disposal and Contracts Manager and P Shaw, Recycling Officer, from the Council’s Neighbourhoods and Communities Department, were in attendance at the meeting to update Members on the subject.


The Waste Disposal and Contracts Manager advised Members that the Council had been successful in obtaining £3.6 million of Government funding in order to provide a wheeled bin recycling system to enhance Middlesbrough’s environmental options. Middlesbrough had been eligible to bid for the funding as it operated a weekly refuse collection service and part of the bid’s success was to ensure that weekly collections were maintained for the next five years.


New wheeled bins had now been rolled out across the town, consisting of a full-sized blue-lidded bin for all recycling materials and a smaller capacity wheeled bin for household waste. The current wheeled bins were to be maintained and used for green garden waste recycling during the appropriate months. Recycled waste continued to be collected on a fortnightly basis, with refuse being collected weekly. The roll out programme had generally gone well but there were specific problems in some areas, for example, back alleys/terraced properties. Where difficulties occurred with such properties, or where there was a lack of storage space for additional bins, residents had been accommodated using a mix of wheeled bins and bags.


Since the introduction of the new recycling arrangements, a significant change had been noted in the numbers of households participating in recycling. The amount of recyclable material had increased and this had been noticed by the recycling collection company and collection crews.


The Recycling Officer advised that the previous kerbside collection had produced as little as 60 - 70 tonnes of recyclable waste per week. Since the new recycling arrangements had been introduced, this figure had increased to approximately 220 tonnes in the best performance week. Household recycling participation was, on average, approximately 70% and it was highlighted that it had been as low as 3% previously in some areas.


During the course of discussion, the following issues were raised:-

  • A Panel Member highlighted that it was evident that the new recycling arrangements were successful and that feedback from some residents indicated a preference for a weekly recycling collection and a fortnightly refuse collection. The Officer acknowledged the feedback and stated that one of the challenges for the service was that the Council had signed an agreement with the Government to provide weekly collections for five years. The issue was something that would need to be kept under review as part of the Council’s financial pressures. The Panel was advised that residents could request an additional bin for recycling. Up to four additional bins could be provided for recycling/green waste, however, there would be a charge for the third and fourth bins.
  • Reference was made to the previous recycling scheme, whereby materials had to be separated by the householder, prior to collection, and the new system whereby all materials were placed in a single bin. It was queried whether the materials were now separated at the recycling plant. The Officer advised that the original recycling contract had stipulated that materials should be separated prior to collection and these were collected and placed into the appropriate compartments on the collection vehicle. Many residents took issue with having to pre-sort their recycling materials and some would choose not to recycle for this reason. The national move was towards ‘co-mingling’ collections, which meant that all materials could be placed in a single collection bin. Middlesbrough’s contractors collected the recycling materials and transported them to the plant at Hartlepool where they were separated using a variety of mechanical and manual methods. The process involved around 10-12 employees. This method cut down on work in the household and speeded up the kerbside collection process. The sorted materials were then distributed to a variety of locations in the UK and outside the UK.
  • Members considered it would be useful for this information to be included on the Council’s website and perhaps some form of press release in order to keep residents informed and to promote the success of the scheme.
  • In response to a query in relation to pending European legislation and the potential impact on co-mingled recycling, Members were informed that it was neither financially practical nor operationally practical to provide separate collections, co-mingled collections could be made in order to provide the recycling service. Given the significant increase in both participation and tonnages collected it was considered that the service in Middlesbrough based on the co-mingled process could be justified.   
  • Reference was made to problems with communal refuse bins, particularly in the Gresham area, whereby residents had been unable to deposit their refuse due to irresponsible landlords and tenants filling the bins with inappropriate amounts of bulky waste. It was also highlighted that some refuse bins did not have lids on which also caused problems. The Chair asked that the issue be pursued as to whether this was an isolated issue within the town centre or whether it was a general problem with terraced housing across the town. Further reference was made to the difference in attitude of waste collection staff in different areas of the town.
  • The Officer advised that some problems had been experienced with the new communal recycling bins, particularly in Gresham and North Ormesby and stated that he would feed back the comments in relation to refuse collection staff to the appropriate manager. In relation to communal bins without lids, the Panel was advised that additional recycling bins with lockable lids had been installed in some areas. This had caused problems with some lids being forced open in order to fill the bin with rubbish. Enhanced locking systems were currently being explored and the Service was working with the Enforcement Team. It was highlighted that there was a particular problem with contamination of communal bins in back alleys that needed to be addressed.
  • A Panel Member queried whether there was any scope to extend the green waste collection service. The Service currently operated from April to October but some residents had stated that they would prefer the service to start a month later and end a month later. The Officer advised that the collection of green waste had been changed from starting early and finishing later than it did at present, to reflect the budget reductions. The issue could be examined providing there were no further budget reductions to the service, however, April to October was acknowledged as being the main growing season.
  • Reference was made to the green waste depository at Newham Grange Leisure Farm, however, it was noted by a Panel Member that the access doors to the depository had been closed during working hours which had resulted in people being unable to deposit their green waste or putting themselves at risk by climbing a ladder. The Officer advised that he had been made aware of this problem and would be attending a meeting in the near future to address the issue.
  • In response to a query, it was stated that the current recycling contract was due for renewal in 2015 and the Waste Disposal Contract (currently undertaken via the Energy from Waste Plant) was due for renewal in 2020. Middlesbrough was the lead authority for the current Energy from Waste contract with SITA and the four local authorities. The current contract allowed for a guaranteed amount of tonnage and the Council was not penalised for not reaching that capacity. Members were advised that there were several options available in relation to the renewal of the contract which were currently being explored by the original four Tees Valley Councils and Darlington Borough Council.
  • In relation to a query regarding availability of compost during the winter from the Energy from Waste Plant, the Panel was informed that compost was previously available from the Energy from Waste Plant but this had stopped a couple of years ago. It may be possible to explore the possibility of distributing compost for a limited period of time if it was deemed to be worthwhile.
  • The Panel was advised that members of the public wishing to compost could access a link via the Council website, to purchase high quality compost bins at a discounted rate, delivered to their home. The Panel considered that this should also be promoted as part of a press release.
  • In response to several queries in relation to recyclable materials, the Recycling Officer advised that household batteries could be recycled by placing in a recycle bag and leaving on top of the blue bin. It was highlighted that the household waste recycling facility also accepted all types of batteries, including acid. The Panel was also advised that it was a requirement for any establishment selling batteries to have a battery collection box. Certain types of plastic, such as cling film and thin film coverings on pre-packed packaging, plant pots and glue-strips on envelopes were not recyclable. The Panel considered that it would be useful to include an updated list of recyclable and non-recyclable materials on the Council’s website.
  • Reference was made to housing where dedicated bays existed for bin storage which had now become too small to accommodate three bins and it was queried whether this issue would be investigated. The Panel was advised that the Council was working with Erimus and other Housing Associations to discuss specific issues and explore various solutions such as using a mixture of bins and sacks for collections or building communal bin stores.
  • In response to a query regarding the Council’s side waste policy, the Panel was advised that from the start of the roll out of new bins in August 2013 side waste was not collected, except at Christmas. All waste must be containerised with a closed lid and no additional bags on top of the bins or at the side. Refuse collection crews would place "bin hangers" on side waste explaining why it had not been collected and examples of the hangers were circulated for inspection. Extra recycling placed at the side of the recycling waste bin was collected, however, where it was noticed that this was happening on a regular basis, a second or larger capacity bin would be offered or could be requested by the resident.
  • It was noted that the national targets set for recycling were 50%. Middlesbrough’s previous recycling rate prior to the implementation of the new arrangements was approximately 23%. The figure had increased since the new arrangements commenced and was estimated at around the mid-30s %, although this was subject to confirmation. This compared with around the same figure for Stockton, with Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland having higher percentage recycling rates.

The Chair thanked the Officers for their attendance and for the information provided.

AGREED as follows:-

  1. That a draft Final Report in relation to ‘Waste Management - New Recycling and Refuse Collection Arrangements’ be submitted to the next meeting of the Environment Scrutiny Panel.
  2. That the draft final report includes a recommendation in relation to arrangements for a press release to be made, providing information on the new collection arrangements, recyclable/non-recyclable materials, what happens to the collected recyclable materials, side waste policy and availability of compost bins.
  3. That the above listed information be incorporated into the relevant sections of the Council’s website.

The Chair requested that the Panel note the contents of the submitted report which provided an update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 15 October 2013, namely:-

  • Attendance of Executive Members - Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health.
  • Executive Forward Work Programme.
  • Safeguarding Vulnerable Children - Budget and Service Pressures.
  • 2013/14 Revenue Budget Projected Outturn Update.
  • Child Poverty, Deprivation and Attainment.
  • Out of Hours Service - Panel Findings.
  • Ad Hoc Scrutiny Panel - Paperless Committee Meetings.
  • Scrutiny Review - Request.
  • Scrutiny Panel Progress Reports.

AGREED that the information contained within the report be noted.


The next meeting of the Environment Scrutiny Panel was scheduled for Monday, 2 December 2013 at 1.45pm.


Next Scrutiny Topic


Following a brief discussion, it was subsequently agreed that the Panel should investigate ‘Income Generation’ as its next scrutiny topic.

AGREED that the Panel examines the topic of ‘Income Generation’ its next scrutiny topic.

Powered by E-GENDA from Associated Knowledge Systems Ltd