New measures are being put in place to increase recycling at community Household Recycling Centres (HRCs), as part of the new waste strategy for Aberdeenshire.
More staff will be employed at HRCs over the summer to help residents recycle more and a trial to collect more types of plastic is due to start at some locations in June, with more recyclable materials planned to be introduced in future.
In an effort to free up space for more recyclable materials at HRCs, local councillors’ views are being sought on extra measures to direct commercial waste away from them to more appropriate sites.
While some HRCs are licensed to take trade waste, some businesses dispose of or recycle their waste as if it was domestic waste, therefore not paying for their commercial waste to be disposed of.
As well as taking up space meant for local householders’ recyclable materials and causing congestion at facilities, it also has legal and financial implications.
Steps to tackle the issue are being proposed to each of the Council’s Area Committees to allow local councillors to give feedback, prior to final consideration by the Infrastructure Services Committee.
It follows agreement on a new waste strategy for the area in January, designed to push up recycling rates and send less materials to landfill.
Currently, as much as 20% of the waste taken to recycling centres is thought to be business waste, which should not be there.
Disposal of business waste by these means is thought to be costing Aberdeenshire taxpayers around £500,000 a year – money which could be better spent improving recycling services for households.
Businesses would be prevented from using HRCs and instead directed to use council waste transfer stations at Banchory, Ellon and Macduff. At these facilities materials can be accurately weighed and charged for appropriately.
As it is around half the cost to recycle materials than to landfill them, this gives businesses an incentive to consider which materials have the potential to be diverted from landfill.
This approach would also make it fairer to those businesses which already dispose of their waste through a paid-for collection service or by paying for the waste they take to recycling centres.
To try to ensure businesses cannot continue to use HRCs unlawfully, a vehicle permit system is being proposed.
Certain types of vehicle typically used by businesses would not be permitted at HRCs, specifically those over 3.5 tonnes gross weight, tippers, tractors, large trailers and vehicles with twin wheels or more than four wheels.
Under the proposals householders who use commercial type vehicles (e.g. vans, pick-ups, minibuses and trailers) would be able to apply for free permits to access HRCs.
Households would apply for the free permits in advance and a year’s supply (12 permits) would be issued at one time to minimise inconvenience.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Waste Manager, Ros Baxter, said: “The majority of households will not be affected by the proposed permit system as those using cars, MPVs, 4x4s or hire vans would continue to have unlimited access to recycling centres.
“The permit system is simply designed to address the fact that some households use commercial type vehicles – we understand this and they will be able to use the services in the same way as other members of their community, with a permit which shows staff they are entitled.
“In the past we have seen situations where staff are put in a difficult position where they suspect someone disposing of materials at an HRC is linked to a business but cannot prove this.
“The permit system will avoid any confusion and will make it perfectly clear that only household materials are permitted to be disposed of at our HRCs.
“It is also really important that businesses take disposal costs into account when charging for work, paying appropriately for the waste they create. Following recent public engagement on budget setting, we know many residents agree with this approach that the council should not subsidise businesses. It is not for the taxpayer to pick up this bill on their behalf, hence these proposals.