Last updated:

18th January 2024

Why we need these changes

An overdue change to keep up with neighbours 

We need this new system because of the enormous environmental benefits. Figures show that most other local authorities have massively increased their recycling rates by modernising waste collections, and we’ve got to keep pace.

Almost 85 per cent of councils in England now have fortnightly rubbish collections, or sometimes every three weeks, and that number is increasing each year.

Recycling rates increased in Bracknell Forest (13 per cent) and Reading Borough (10 per cent) when they switched from weekly collections. Slough, West Berkshire and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead have made similar changes.

Our waste collection changes should also boost our recycling rates, to help us meet the Government’s expectations for all councils to reach and maintain 65 per cent from 2035 onwards.

We'd like to do even better than this, as we've declared a climate emergency and pledged to work as hard as we can towards being carbon neutral by 2030. This includes reducing our emissions - and helping residents to do the same.

Additionally, the Government has stated that local authorities need to be more consistent in their waste collections. In future, it could fine those that aren’t keeping up with other councils when they’re assessed for efficiency and effectiveness.

We’re currently placed 42nd out of more than 300 local authorities in England for our recycling rates – and based on our most recent figures, our changes could increase them enough to make the top 10.

Environmental benefits – the bigger picture 

The changes will ensure that far less recyclable waste is thrown away unnecessarily and burned for energy or sent to landfill. When waste is left to decompose, it produces gases that cause climate change. 

The new system will also allow our collection vehicles to carry more of each type of waste – that’s rubbish, mixed recycling and food waste - so they’ll make fewer trips and drive fewer miles to and from the depot for emptying.  

We’re predicting a reduction of 2,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide (equivalent) per year when the changes come into effect, equivalent to the amount generated by about 1,500 typical households’ annual electricity usage. 

Based on other areas’ experience, we should see a 20 per cent reduction in rubbish put out for collection, with 12 per cent more going in green recycling bags, five per cent more going to food waste and the rest reduced by people not generating it.  

We’re also expecting an overall reduction of 744 tonnes of rubbish across the borough per year – that’s the weight of at least 45 double-decker buses. 

Being there for people who need us

Although we’re facing unprecedented financial pressures, and we don’t foresee this changing soon, we would stress that our waste collection changes are long overdue and we should be making them regardless.

However, we do need to save money to balance our budget in tough times. Our waste collection changes should save us more than £1 million a year, largely because recycling waste costs less than disposing of it as rubbish.

We’ve got to make savings of £12 million in the current financial year (2023/4), which we've already identified, and then more beyond that.

As we consider some tough decisions, it’s vital that we protect funding for services like social care. Demand for this is increasing every year, particularly for older people and children who need additional support, either in school or at home.

About 60 per cent of our annual council tax spend goes on services like this, while almost 80 per cent of our annual revenue budget is spent on all statutory services - including things like maintaining our roads and highways or collecting waste.

At the same time, we're getting less funding from the Government per resident than any other unitary council while inflation is at a 40-year high and constantly driving all our costs up. We need to address this “triple threat” of high inflation, underfunding and rising costs to keep our finances on a stable footing.

Other councils have effectively gone bankrupt recently, forcing them to cut services to the bare minimum while driving council tax up, and we can’t allow the same thing to happen here.

You said, we listened

These changes follow extensive consultation and we’ve done all we can to make sure your views were considered.

A full report of our findings is available and we considered these before making the final decision to go ahead in March 2023.

In October 2021, we asked what matters most about waste and recycling collections. More than 2,000 of you responded as follows:

  • 54 per cent said the environmental benefits are most important
  • 98 per cent said it's important to reduce the amount of waste we produce
  • 86 per cent are willing to recycle more

This tells us that the environmental impact is your biggest concern, you want to produce less waste and you’re willing to recycle more, so this was our priority as we developed our proposals.

We consulted again in late 2022 – this time asking your views on moving to the system we’re now adopting. We found that:

  • 74 per cent either liked, could accept or were neutral about the changes we’re now making
  • 78 per cent either liked, could accept or were neutral about wheeled rubbish bins

To ensure everyone knew and could take part, we sent a postcard to every household and sent alerts through our social media channels and email newsletters and to the local media.

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