Agenda item

Analysis of Waste Services in Leeds

To consider the report of the Director of Communities, Environment and Housing regarding waste services in Leeds.


(to follow)


The Committee received a report of the Chief Officer, Environmental Services, which provided information on two pieces of work commissioned by the Council to assist the development of an updated Leeds Waste Strategy and associated Waste Management Plan. 


The following were in attendance to provide a presentation: 

John Woolmer - Chief Officer, Environmental Services 

Philip Turpin - Senior Business Officer (Technical), Environmental Services. 


In his introduction, Mr Woolmer emphasised the report and presentation contained initial, draft data that is still being verified and worked on and so should not be reported or used as confirmed data/information. However, it was still felt useful to provide an overview of the work being done to better understand the performance of Environmental Services in terms of its carbon footprint across all the services it provides and also in terms of household waste. These will both inform the developing Waste Strategy for Leeds and the accompanying Waste Management Plan, both of which will reference the National Resources and Waste Strategy and the anticipated legal requirements for kerbside food and glass collection by 2025, along with the implications of the new national Deposit Return Scheme (for plastics).  


The Committee received two presentations from Mr Turpin: 


Leeds household kerbside waste compositional analysis:


·  The Council engaged Alfred H Knight consulting services to carry out a statistically representative compositional analysis of kerbside residual (black bin) and dry mixed recyclables (green bin).  


·  Waste collection across the city is predominantly undertaken on alternate weeks of wheel bin collections, the remainder of the city are mainly weekly black bin and four-weekly green bin collections. 


·  The analysis of waste from 250 properties was undertaken in February 2022 and waste was manually sorted into 13 categories with 40 sub categories, the initial outcomes were shared with Members, the highlights being (in terms of content measured by weight): 

o  Residual waste (black bin) – putrescible (food etc) 36% food, paper/card 13% 

o  Dry Mixed Recyclable (green bin) – paper/card 55%, plastic 15% 

o  Waste per household per week in 2022 = residual 10kg; DMR 3kg compared with 2015 = residual 10.9kg, DMR 3.6kg 


·  Referencing NI 192, the National Standard for recyclates, the analysis showed that if all recyclates were recovered from the residual waste (black bin), this would only make a 9% points difference to the citywide Leeds recycling figure. It was also noted that some of those recyclates are not recoverable as they are contaminated. The initial analysis supported the following conclusions: 


o  As the National Waste Strategy focusses on glass and food waste, analysis showed Glass in black bins = c.13,300 tonnes and in green bins = c.1,500 tonnes, therefore in theory there is a total of c.14,800 tonnes that could be recovered through kerbside glass recycling, on top of a similar amount that is currently successfully and efficiently recovered through glass banks and HWRCs. This therefore provides the city with an opportunity to potentially double its glass recycling, however it was noted that it was unlikely that this full amount would be achieved through glass kerbside recycling as not all residents would want/use an extra bin and the black bin would still be an option some would use.  


o  Food waste in the residual collection = c.66,800 tonnes; however it was noted that it was unlikely that this full amount would be received in future food waste kerbside recycling for the same reasons as with glass;


o  Alternate collection of recycling in green bins provides better recycling results, and results showed the amount of contaminants has decreased between 2015 to 2022 


o  Black bin analysis shows that the predominant missed recyclates are cardboard and recyclable plastic film. The proportion of garden waste in the residual collection has reduced, probably reflecting the success of the roll out and use of this service (brown bins) in Leeds, helped by it remaining a free service.


Discussions on factors which had driven waste reduction since 2015 noted the following information: 


-  The sub category of “carrier bags” mentioned in the presentation is all ‘recyclable plastic film’ (it is sometimes referred to as ‘carrier bags and refuse sacks’)”

-  The total waste arisings for the Leeds area had risen due to the increase in household growth, however the type of household growth presented a complicating factor to the data – flat/apartment development exceeded house building in 2021/22 and flat dwellers often display a different attitude to waste. 


In acknowledgement of the draft status of the results of the analysis and the breadth of the topic, it was agreed that the next presentation would proceed with the Working Group to consider the issues in detail at a future meeting. 


Carbon footprint/impact of LCC Environmental Services – baseline and future options:


·  The Council engaged Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd to create a baseline carbon footprint for all the waste management functions across Environmental Services, to appraise options for reducing CO2 emissions related to the Council’s waste activities, and to create a carbon assessment model to allow for further appraisal of options and future annual performance monitoring. It was again noted that the data produced was still being checked and verified and was to be treated as draft.


·  Analysis of the draft data showed where the greatest climate gains could be made across the service. The analysis also provided initial options to consider for the future development of the service and built a carbon assessment model that supports an annual review of the carbon footprint and an assessment of each of the development options. 


·  2019/20 was chosen as the baseline year, thus avoiding the skewing impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Service, and included all waste management services (residual kerbside, flytipping, bulky collections, recycling, food waste pilot, household waste sites and bring sites, street cleansing and grounds cleansing). 


·  Collection results were inputted into the model which showed a baseline result that the Service has a net carbon impact of -33,323 tonnes (i.e. a net carbon benefit).


·  The emissions the service makes mainly through operational functions are displaced by negative emissions /carbon savings elsewhere by how waste is processed/treated and re-used or recycled. The energy generation provided by the Recycling & Energy Recovery Facility (RERF), and the District Heating Scheme both bring a positive impact to the results. All services have a net carbon benefit, with the Household Waste and Recycling Centres contributing the most; however, although the analysis does include the impact of LCC and contractor vehicles accessing sites and transporting materials, it does not include the impact of residents driving to recycling sites. Where analysis is available on this, it shows that the carbon impact of residents driving to sites is relatively small and so whereas it would of course decrease the carbon benefit, it would not make a significant difference, which will reduce even more as vehicles move away from fossil based fuels.


·  The analysis has supported consideration of different and new approaches to recycling, including kerbside glass recycling, weekly collections, combined waste alternate collections (ie glass, metal and plastic one week, paper/card the next), source segregated food recycling and mixing garden with food. 


·  Inputting the different approaches into the model showed the main carbon benefits would be gained from source segregation of food and glass waste. However, the assumptions made in the model when assessing the carbon benefits of collecting garden with food are based on a narrow range of examples, and ones not necessarily comparable to Leeds. Further work is to undertaken to better estimate what the food yield could be in Leeds (ie the percentage of food waste that would be presented by a household if they had the option to put it in their brown bin), and how that would affect the results of the model.


·  Mr Woolmer explained that the intention is to develop the Leeds Waste Strategy and associated Waste Management Plan using the impact on carbon reduction as the key performance/outcome driver. This is a move away from measuring the success of greater “reduce-recycle-reuse” by simply presenting the percentage of material recycled according to weight. The need to also consider in the strategy/plan what is practical/deliverable within a diverse city such as Leeds and ultimately affordable was highlighted too.

In conclusion, the Committee noted; 

-  The way Leeds City Council currently collects and processes waste across the city results in a net carbon benefit of around -33,000t per annum to contribute towards the city’s zero carbon ambitions; but there is a potential to save up to an additional 3700t of carbon per annum; 

-  Household Waste and Recycling Centres make the greatest net contribution to carbon reduction in terms of waste management;

-  There will be a legal requirement to offer kerbside food waste and glass collections from 2025 (subject to the result of consultation to be published by the Government, further delayed from “early 2022”) and this would mean changes to the way residents present waste in Leeds – various collection models are being assessed as part of the carbon analysis work to help inform what the preferred option(s) will be, which will also need to consider what is practical/deliverable and ultimately affordable (the Government has committed to funding all new “burdens”, and is expected to release details on how that will work together with the consultation update). 

-  The carbon modelling provides another tool to inform service options and collection regimes along with other key factors of finance, fleet and resources. The results of inputting data related to the use of electric fleet, the impact of food waste education campaigns or carbon capture technologies can be taken into account though the modelling.  

-  The proposed way forward in developing the Leeds Waste Strategy and Waste Management Plan is to move the focus of how we improve what we do/offer and measure success away from a weight based recycling percentage to the contribution it makes towards a zero carbon city.


The Ward Councillor for the Rothwell ward expressed support for the consideration of an option for food waste collection as Rothwell had been the ward for a previous pilot study. In response to a subsequent query about the specified destination (composting, bio-gas generation) and the environmental impact of food waste collection it was noted that current modelling assumes that source segregated collection destination= anaerobic digestion and mixed garden/food collection destination = In-Vessel Composting system. These assumptions will be revisited as more modern techniques come on-line. 


In conclusion the Committee noted the significance of the work already undertaken and considered how to progress the work of this Committee, noting that a joint Inquiry by the Environment, Housing and Communities and the Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Boards was planned for September. 


Members received clarification on the purpose of the presentations to inform and seek the views of CEAC on the proposed direction of the developing waste strategy based on the carbon modelling, the rationale, and future presentations to judge the success/ detail of specific modelling and the benefit/ scale of impact that changing an approach might bring. 


RECOMMENDATION - The Committee expressed support for the rationale outlined, in particular to move to measuring success/improvement through greater carbon reduction, and agreed that a future discussion on the detail of the final analysis be held at a Biodiversity, Food and Waste Working Group.