Agenda item


            The Committee considered the undernoted report:


“1.0     Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


1.1       To provide an update to members on Waste Collections Management and performance.


2.0       Recommendations


2.1       The Committee is requested to:


·        Note the contents of the report.

·        Provide feedback on the current consultation on the draft regulations for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR for packaging scheme.


3.0       Main report


            Key Issues


Waste Performance & Recycling Rates – 2022/23 Year to Date


3.1       DAERA has recently published the Northern Ireland, Local Authority Collected Municipal Waste Management Statistics for Q4 (Jan-Mar’23) 2022/23. The general picture is one of a stagnant recycling rate (46%) combined with a slightly increased energy recovery rate (28%) and corresponding decreasing reliance upon landfill (24%) as a disposal route.


3.2       An examination of the 12-month rolling figures for Belfast City Council, which in this instance can act as a proxy for the annual figures, indicates the following:


·     Municipal Waste Arisings – the total tonnage of all types of waste collected by the Council was 158,000 tonnes. This is a reduction of 10,000 thousand tonnes (6%) on the previous year.


·     Municipal Waste Recycling Rate – the percentage of all types of waste collected by the Council which was re-used, recycled or composted, declined by 1% to 37%.


·     Household Waste Recycling Rate– the percentage of household waste only collected by the Council which was re-used, recycled or composted, remained unchanged at 41%.


3.3       The validated annual figures will be published by NIEA later in the year and an analysis will be provided to Members following their publication.


3.4       As noted within this report, there are a number of legislative, strategic and financial drivers which are going to shape future waste management arrangements. Until there is sufficient clarity around this environment, radical, systemic change aimed at delivering significant improvements in the recycling rate are unlikely.


            In the interim the Service is exploring initiatives which could be delivered, such as communications campaigns and doorstep engagement, aimed at reversing the trend, aligning with policy drivers and improving performance.



Waste Framework Update


3.5       At the People and Communities Committee meeting of June 2017, Members approved the Waste Framework document.  It provides an overview of options on how waste could be managed within the city over the next decade.  It was developed to align with the objectives of the Belfast Agenda and Resourceful Belfast (Circular Economy), designing out waste, improving the quantity and quality of recycling and supporting local jobs.


3.6       The Waste Framework focuses on four themes (i) Collection Arrangements, (ii) Infrastructure, (iii) Behaviour Change and (iv) Technology. 


3.7       Resources and Fleet continue to look at initiatives and opportunities to develop methods of collection and introduce new schemes to encourage the reuse and recycling of waste as a resource. The following provides an insight on the work and initiatives currently being undertaken under the 4 main workstreams.


Persistent Organic Pollutants


3.8       Members will be aware that at the February 2023 meeting of the Committee the issue of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) was discussed.  These are chemicals which can remain intact in the environment for long periods, and if not disposed of properly can have harmful impacts on human health and on the environment. In relation to the handling and treatment of waste these pollutants are to be found in many types of soft furnishings such as chairs, sofas etc as fire retardants or indeed within clothing items with water /fire resistant properties.


3.9       In 2022, the Environment Agency in England issued a Regulatory Position Statement (RPS) lasting until end of December 2023 informing Local Authorities that it would be implementing a more robust enforcement regime regarding the treatment of POPs in such waste streams. This is an issue which continues to exercise English Local Authorities as they consider the collection, storage and treatment of these materials, as the RPS states that items with these materials (suspected or otherwise) should be collected, stored internally and transported separately from other waste streams and cannot be put into landfill but be destroyed by permanently changing their chemical make-up i.e through incineration.



3.10     In Northern Ireland, the NIEA has yet to issues a Regulatory Position Statement in regard to POPs. Council Officers have requested clarity at several meetings of the Government Waste Working Group, but still await definitive guidance on the matter. The lack of an RPS is of concern to officers as there may be serious consequences in terms of lack of Council infrastructure (collection and storage facilities) and additional costs in relation to the final treatment of the particular waste – in all likelihood the transport to mainland UK or abroad for incineration, hopefully as part of a Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF).


3.11     Until such times as a Regulatory Position Statement is issued by NIEA, all identified POPs items collected by the Council will be dealt with under the new Interim Residual Waste Contract which commenced on 1st July 2023, i.e. all residual waste is being pre-treated before export as RDF to energy from waste plants in Europe.


(i)            Collection Arrangements


Inner City Recycling Scheme Update


3.12     The aim is to transition to a weekly, segregated collection of dry recyclables and food waste, combined with a restriction on residual waste. This was arrived at based on the NI Recycling Gap analysis (WRAP) and BCC bespoke options appraisal (Resource Futures). 


3.13     A detailed financial evaluation (green book appraisal) on the Council’s kerbside recycling collection schemes was completed in October 2021. This was considered at the Waste Programme Board meeting of 8th November 2021 and subsequently presented to Party Group Briefings/Leaders and SP&R Committee in June 2022.


3.14     Members requested that Resources and Fleet conduct a feasibility study regarding Option 5 of this report, namely the in-housing of all kerbside recycling, while at the same time commencing a procurement exercise to ensure service continuity in the ‘inner city’ area beyond August 2024, which is the expiry date for the Bryson contract.  The transition from the current two box scheme to the ‘wheelie box’ solution for the inner city is also considered within this work.  The feasibility study on Option 5 is well progressed with an indicative completion date of September 2023, following which it will then be subject to normal governance arrangements. 


3.15     Resources and Fleet has also initiated the procurement exercise for the continuation of kerbside recycling provision in the inner city.  The market engagement exercise has been concluded and officers are developing the contract specification document with the intention to issue Sep/Oct 2023.


Carpet Recycling


3.16     In November 2021, supported by capital funding from the DAERA Collaborative Change Programme, Resources and Fleet initiated separated collection arrangements for carpets at all Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs).


3.17     The contract for treating the carpet was provided by USEL Recycling Solutions, an organisation specialising in employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Carpets were brought back to the USEL site in Belfast for quality checking and baling. Before being shipped for further reprocessing with the resultant material being sold into the equine sector as flooring / bedding, across the UK and Ireland. In the first year of operation the target was exceeded with 406 tonnes captured.


3.18     Following on from the emerging issues around POPs the contractor for carpet recycling has informed BCC that their treatment outlet is no longer accepting this material if it cannot be declared as free of POPs. Despite seeking alternative arrangements, the contractor has to date been unsuccessful at sourcing an alternative provider as there is a view within the marketplace that carpets will be included in the next tranche of POPS related enforcement and as such companies are seeking to disengage from the recycling of this material. Officers continue to liaise with USEL and DAERA (funding provider for the carpet skips) regarding this matter, but it is envisaged that the solution may result in this material being sent for energy recovery. While this is disappointing, it should be noted that it would be an improved situation vis-a-vis the pre-pilot disposal route which was a mixture of landfill and energy recovery.


Reuse of Laptops & electrical equipment


3.19     In December 2021, in collaboration with colleagues in Community Services, a small trial of reusing unwanted smart technologies commenced at Ormeau Household Waste Recycling Centre.


3.20     Resources and Fleet has taken on board the learning from the pilot scheme and is now, with the assistance of Climate Change funding, looking to expand the duration of the initiative while at the same time develop a more sustainable model not solely reliant upon external funding. The scheme was launched at Ormeau recycling centre on 5th September 2022.


3.21     Despite the efforts of Corporate Communications at promoting the scheme, uptake remains much slower than anticipated. This could be down to a number of factors; cost of living crisis with people holding on to their technology for longer and also the increased number of retail outlets now providing incentives on second hand technology. The Service will assess this scheme at the end of the 2023/24 financial year. 


Pre-loved Toys


3.22     Given the resounding success of this scheme last year, at the March 2023 committee meeting, Members agreed to run the pre-loved toys scheme again this year. In line with the recommendations of the report, planning work has commenced earlier this year to explore the general approach and delivery model.


Kerbside Glass


3.23     A feasibility study on the expansion of kerbside collection of glass was reported to committee in June 2022. Internal discussions are ongoing regarding the financing and delivery plan for such a scheme and will need to be considered in the revenue estimates and rates setting process for 2024/25.


Community Repaint Scheme


3.24     The Service is exploring the potential for a Community RePaint scheme at HWRCs. Not only would this seek to reduce the amount of paint being treated and disposed of through the sites but it may provide a useful resource to community groups.


3.25     In January 2023, Members agreed to the establishment of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) in principle with the Community RePaint scheme. The service has launched phase 1 of this initiative which is an assessment of the preferred approach and level of demand. It is anticipated that phase 1 will be completed by October 2023 and phase 2 will then commence, a procurement exercise to appoint the delivery partner, implement communications and launch. This scheme is also supported by the Council’s climate fund for 23/24.


(ii)        Infrastructure


Recycling Centres & Dargan Road WTS


3.26     The Service has identified the need for capital funding to replace aged containers (compactors & skips) at recycling centres. A sum of £160k of non-recurrent funding was allocated to commence this project and the Service purchased six compactors for cardboard which were installed by 1 April 2023. An application for tranche 2 funding has been submitted to the Financial Oversight Board.


Recycling Centres and Pedestrian Access


3.27     A detailed feasibility study on the potential for pedestrian access to Alexandra recycling centre was presented to Committee in September 2022. 


3.28     An additional site visit was conducted to assess the potential impact on the trees within the vicinity of the proposed works. This tree study has been completed and the access point has been agreed. The Service is liaising with colleagues in Property & Projects to obtain a time frame for the works.


arc21 Residual Waste Project and Interim Residual Waste arrangements


3.29     Following the refusal of planning permission by the Minister for Infrastructure in April 2022, arc21 submitted an application for judicial review against this decision. On 31 May 2023, the High Court issued an agreed Order reflecting that the Department for Infrastructure had conceded that this decision to refuse the proposed development of residual municipal solid waste treatment infrastructure was unlawful (on the grounds of irrationality) could not be sustained and was therefore to be quashed with immediate effect. Ecological surveys required by the Habitat Directive are being updated as is other information supporting the application. Clarification on the administrative process for getting the re-determination process underway is currently being sought by arc21.


3.30     Due to the prolonged timescales regarding the residual waste treatment facility at Hightown, arc21 initiated a procurement exercise to secure future services for the treatment and/or disposal of constituent councils’ residual waste. This service was broken down into a number of lots to reflect the different time scales and material requirements of the constituent councils.


3.31     Arc21 awarded the Belfast City Council lot to ReGen with an effective contract commencement date of 1 July 2023. The Council’s contractor at that time, River Ridge Recycling challenged this decision through the courts and sought an injunction. On the 26 June 2023, the court refused to grant an injunction to stop the implementation of the contract and the contract for services related to interim residual waste disposal for use by Belfast City Council commenced as planned on 1 July 2023.  It should be noted that while the injunction to prevent commencement of services was not successful, there is still a legal challenge by River Ridge against the award of this contract by arc21. The time frame for this case has still to be determined.


Connected Circular Economy - Shared Island Project


3.32     The Service continues to work with colleagues in the Economic Development Unit and Climate Team along with Dublin City Council to deliver a feasibility study into a “Connected Circular Economy." This will include the sharing of knowledge and good practice initially, with the ambition for the development of hubs in Dublin and Belfast to support the growth of the circular economy island -wide, leading to a Connected Circular Economy. The final report is due November 2023.


(iii)           Behaviour Change


Recycling Communications Campaign


3.33     Following a request at Party Group Leaders in December 2022 to look into the possibility of a recycling campaign the Marketing and Corporate Communications team has developed an integrated campaign to create awareness around recycling.  The campaign “Be Bincredible Belfast” is positioned to inspire and energise people to consider recycling as a mature and responsible act. The campaign messaging sets about getting citizens to think about recycling as a social responsibility, not just a personal one.


3.34     The campaign call to action is to make recycling feel like a larger, community-wide effort and encourage people to do a little bit more and recycle the right way. “Be Bincredible Belfast” is very much about celebrating those who have already been putting in the work and letting them know that their efforts are appreciated. The second phase of the campaign is based on increased education and a “back to basics” approach to getting recycling right first time, delivering increased capture of materials and improved quality from an operations point of view.  Marketing and Corporate Communications have been working closely with both the educational team and the operations team in the development of the campaign.


3.35     The first phase of the campaign will be delivered via an integrated advertising campaign encompassing outdoor, radio, digital (video on demand) and social media and will go live w/c 25th September and will run for approximately 3 weeks.  In terms of the educational piece and encouraging citizens to recycle correctly, this will be delivered beyond the initial advertising campaign using channels such as social media and assets such as City Matters and will be supported via roadshows delivered by the Environmental Outreach Team.


Waste Access & Acceptance Policies at HWRCs


3.36     A Service Working Group was established with the primary aim of improving the recycling rates achieved at the recycling centres and CA sites. This group looked at the development of effective, Waste Access & Acceptance Policies to assist staff in managing waste on site.


3.37     The draft policy has been developed and provided to Legal Services and we await a formal response. Once this has been received, engagement with the Departmental Policy team will take place to carry out an equality assessment and determine the level of public consultation required.


3.38     Before this document is finalised, the Resources and Fleet will seek to engage with Members to visit recycling centres and see first-hand the positive work which goes on at the sites and the challenges encountered by staff.


            Tackling multiple black (residual) bins.


3.39     Through previous Committee reports, Officers have asked for support from Members to tackle the complex issues around collections and recycling, and to be aware of the current Waste Collection Policies as Officers look at how these can be applied effectively.


3.40     Current policy is that BCC will collect one residual waste bin per household unless an assessment of further need has been carried out and approved by officers. Multiple studies have recognised that one of the most effective ways to increase domestic recycling is to limit the volume of residual waste capacity (per week equivalent) to ‘encourage’ residents to divert their waste towards recycling waste streams (blue, brown or glass receptacles, including bring banks). Indeed, this is likely to be a major recycling improvement initiative in the DAERA considerations around their proposed Common Collections Guidance, to be published for consultation in due course during 2023. 


3.41     A working group within the Service carried out a project to target, on a crew-by-crew basis, those addresses identified as presenting multiple bins. To date, several small pilot areas have been completed and learning captured. In recent months this project has been suspended due to other competing priorities (Full Shift cover and Report-It APP).  It is envisaged that this project will re-commence following the DAERA public consultation and the working group will consider how the exercise could be suitably scaled up and accelerated to deliver the anticipated benefits.


(iv)      Information Technology


In-Cab Technology


3.42     Following the successful deployment of the Report IT App, Resources and Fleet are currently looking to build on the opportunities modern software systems can deliver. A project is currently underway to potentially procure a system which can:


·             Hold all safety information on vehicles and routes.

·             incorporate live time information flows to and from the operating centre to crews and vice versa.

·             capture all the functionality of the Report IT App

·             optimise routes as the city grows to ensure operational efficiency.

·             link in with Customer Hub software to deliver customer service.

·             monitor vehicle condition and driver behaviour.


3.43     An Outline Business case will be presented to the Financial Oversight Board in September for consideration of capital requirements for 2023/24 financial year.


Operational update - Access Issues


3.44     Members may be aware of 2 ongoing pieces of ongoing work to look at addressing the issues around access to certain streets for our collection vehicles.


3.45     Following the single item Committee meeting in March 2023 to discuss access issues, officers have engaged with officers from the PSNI and DFI to look at what measures might be available within their remit to assist collection crews. BCC officers have identified the most affected streets, based on crew reporting and residents’ calls. These streets have been prioritised by difficulty and sorted by post code for the other agencies to consider how to move this forward.


3.46     These streets have also been presented to the Waste Collections operations team in a high level assessment to identify, in their opinion if


·             they have current parking restrictions that are not being adhered by motorists or

·             they have no current / insufficient parking restrictions where the addition of same might be of benefit.


3.47     We will continue to engage throughout the autumn to develop a targeted action plan. This will involve a stepped process that might include member engagement, leafleting of impacted streets, enforcement support and further work on those streets that are difficult to access but do not currently have any parking restrictions.


3.48     Secondly, we are in the final stages of agreeing a final report on the possible costs and benefits of utilising smaller refuse collection vehicles within these narrow streets across the city. We intend to have the final report approved in time for consideration within this year’s estimating process to bring forward as a potential growth proposal for the 2023/24 financial year.


Inter Council / DAERA Collaboration


3.49     Council Officers continue to engage with DAERA counterparts in the formulation of policy required to deliver the legislative targets set by Central Government. It has recently been announced that the introduction of the Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme (EPR) for packaging has been delayed for at least 1 year and that the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) has been delayed likewise following the difficulties incurred in its introduction in Scotland.


3.50     In England, the delay in the EPR scheme also means a delay in the introduction of Common Collections Guidance (CCG) for Local Authorities in England, i.e., EPR is a precursor to CCG.  As it currently stands, however, DAERA continues to develop its policies on Common Collections Guidance for NI Councils and officers await notification of a final timetable for any proposed Guidance.


Carbon Budget


3.51     The Climate Change Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 received Royal Assent on 6th June 2022. It provides Northern Ireland with its first climate change legislation.


3.52     The Act contains a legal requirement for all NICS Departments to ensure that targets and carbon budgets are met. This legal duty is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland to recognise the need for strong collaboration in tackling climate change.


The headline elements of the Act are:


             Net zero target by 2050

             Carbon Budget to be set every 5 years.

             Climate Action Plan to be published every 5 years.

             Establish a NI Climate Commissioner (being led by TEO)

             Just Transition Commission and a Just Transition Fund for Agriculture

             Sectoral Plans (not timebound)

             Requirement to bring forward Public Body Reporting legislation.


3.53     Officers from Resources and Fleet (along with other Councils counterparts) have been attending DAERA stakeholder workshops to contribute to a response to the DAERA consultation on Northern Ireland’s 2030 and 2040 Emissions Reduction Targets and First Three Carbon Budgets. The process is also aimed at informing DAERA on Councils views on the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) Advice Report: The Path to Net Zero Northern Ireland published on 2 March 2023.


3.54     This 16-week exercise, running from 21 June to 11 October 2023, aims to receive feedback on the proposed first three carbon budgets 2023-2027, 2028-2032 and 2033-2037 as well as 2030 (48%) and 2040 (77%) interim targets.


3.55     DAERA has stated, ‘This consultation provides an opportunity to talk about what we need to do to respond to the threat presented by climate change and about the opportunities that might emerge. Work is progressing at pace in developing Northern Ireland’s first ever Climate Action Plan and all NICS departments have a legislative duty to set out how they will reduce emissions. This consultation and the conversations that will take place will be used to help inform the draft Climate Action Plan.’


3.56     The following informative slides are taken from the DAERA stakeholder workshops.


3.57     As demonstrated in the graphic below, it is estimated that the Waste Sector in Northern Ireland is responsible for approximately 4% of current NI emissions and has reduced its emissions by 61% since 1990 base year. However, the Waste sector is still responsible for approximately 799 CO2e kilo tonnes of emissions each year. It is clear that the waste sector still has an important part to play in the reducing emissions overall.



3.58     In terms of what the remaining emissions consist of, we can see that the vast majority from the slide below that Methane (CH4) has the lion's share of the total amount of GHG’s attributed to the waste sector at just over 94%, the majority of which originates from the landfilling of waste, especially biodegradable waste. This makes tackling these types of GHG’s a priority for the first carbon budget.


3.59     The next largest contributor is Nitrous Oxide (N2O) at 5.3%, Nitrous Oxide is a key challenge for the wastewater sector as it represents a significant component of ‘Scope 1’ type emissions for the mechanical treatment and storage of wastewater treatment. However, solutions to dealing with this GHG are presently cost prohibitive.


3.60     Carbon dioxide (CO2) represents only a small fraction of the total GHG emissions within the waste sector.



3.61     Finally, it can be seen that the source of these emissions are primarily from Managed Waste Disposal Sites, i.e. landfill


3.62     This will inevitably reinforce the demand to reduce the amount of waste to landfill in the future through new policy, but there is also the need to address the emissions that are already there, exploring new technologies and innovations to help deal with that.




3.63     These challenges will feed into DAERA prioritisation of policy making in the short and medium term. Stakeholders were informed that it is likely that DAERA priorities will be as follows:


3.64     Immediate actions


·        Legislate and implement a ban on all landfilling of biodegradable municipal and non-municipal waste from 2025.

·        Accelerate investment plans for councils to put in place universal municipal waste recycling collections (Common Collections Guidance)

·        Set the 70% NI recycling target for recycling.


3.65     Medium Term Actions


·          Mandatory business food waste reporting by 2022 (Overdue)

·          Phase Out Waste exports by 2030.

·          Eventual diversion of all wastes from landfill

·          Increased methane capture and oxidation

·          Examine the impact of waste reduction and recycling targets on the utilisation of (and need for further) EfW plants.

·          New waste conversion plants must be built with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) or CCS ready.




3.66     DEFRA has launched a public consultation on draft regulations for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging scheme.


3.67     The link to the consultation is as follows


3.68     This consultation seeks views on how well the proposed 2024 Regulations reflect the Gov response published in March 2022 (which was generated by 2019 consultation on reforming UK Packaging Producer Responsibility System and the 2021 Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging). Please also use in conjunction with the  impact assessment published in March 2022


3.69     The 2024 regulations will revoke and replace the 2023 Regulations as well as PRO Regulations 2007.


3.70     The draft Regulations also include provisions to:


·        Enable the appointment of a Scheme Administrator.

·        Allow a Scheme Administrator to raise fees from obligated producers to cover local authority costs for the management of household and binned packaging waste, the costs of public information campaigns, and its operational costs.

·        Set recycling targets on producers covering all types of packaging waste (i.e., primary, shipment, secondary, tertiary; household and non-household). • Require certain types of packaging to be labelled to indicate recyclability.

·        Introduce a mandatory takeback and recycling requirement for fibre-based composite cups.

·        Require all reprocessors and exporters of packaging waste to register with a regulator and to report data, and, for those that choose to, to become accredited and issue recycling evidence.

·        Enable regulators to effectively monitor compliance and enforce the draft Regulations.


3.71     The consultation closes on 9th October and our response is being coordinated by our Waste Officer (Compliance and Research), Jennifer Stephens. The questions within the consultation are quite technical and relate to draft legislation. These technical questions are laid out in Appendix 1. Officers will formulate and submit the response and report back to members at the October P&C Committee meeting. However, should any member wish to contribute any views on the questions, please contact Jennifer via email in the first instance to ensure that these views are full captured .


Financial and Resource Implications


3.72     There are no financial implications associated with this report.


Equality or Good Relations Implications /

Rural Needs Assessments


3.73     There are no equality or good relations implications associated with this report.”



            The Committee noted the report and:


·        agreed to provide feedback within the timeline on the current consultation on the draft regulations for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR for packaging scheme);


·        noted that a report was scheduled to be submitted to the October meeting considering the introduction of additional smaller waste tonnage vehicles, which would include a cost benefit summary of the potential savings in not having missed collections;


·        noted that the pedestrian access to the Ormeau Road Recycling Centre was being progressed, however, a different option would be necessary to ensure suitable disability access, an update would be provided in due course; and


·        agreed that a site visit would be organised to a Council recycling facility to provide an opportunity for Members to familiarise themselves with the services provided, the challenges faced and the opportunities available to support the local circular economy.  


Supporting documents: