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SHDC has been told that recycling contractor FCC Environment is expecting a "long term solution" to the collections issues "before the end of 2021", meanwhile South Hams Councillor Julian Brazil has stated that the council "can't sack FCC Environment" and is expecting the company to ask for more money.
South Hams District Council has said that it "continued to express its dissatisfaction with FCC’s roll-out of the council’s new recycling service and have insisted that the contractors take specific steps to fulfil their contractual obligations", and said that FCC Environment has presented South Hams District Council with "a plan to put right their struggling new recycling service".
At an extraordinary meeting of South Hams District Council, held specifically to discuss the current challenges facing the new recycling service, councillors discussed the proposals put forward by FCC.
Before the meeting, FCC’s recovery plan was "rigorously scrutinised" by the council’s officers.
Cllr Keith Baldry, South Hams District Council’s Executive Member for the Environment, said: “I am still very concerned about the level of service that we have been giving the public in some parts of the South Hams. As the lead member for Waste and Recycling, I take responsibility for that. It is not good for the image of the South Hams and it has been going on for too long.
“I would personally like to apologise to the public on behalf of South Hams District Council, for all of the distress and inconvenience that you have experienced.
“As a council we are treating this situation with the upmost urgency and are currently allocating all resources we can to support FCC. We now have a Senior Management Team embedded with FCC and we are being proactive in solving problems on a daily basis as they arise.
“However, I remain deeply let down by FCC’s failure to roll out the kerbside service effectively. We therefore demanded that FCC give us a plan to put this horrendous situation right. They have now given us that plan and we have meticulously scrutinised it.
“Firstly, we expect FCC to collect all of the outstanding recycling, paying particular attention to those households that have been repeatedly missed and our most vulnerable residents on assisted collections.
“FCC have told the Council that they expect to collect recycling on the right day for all residents within by the middle of July.
“And secondly we expect FCC to give us a detailed long term solution which will see all residents moved onto the new recycling service as they are contracted to do. They have told us that they expect this to be fully completed before the end of 2021.
“This is an evolving situation that we will continue to monitor and ensure FCC Environment deliver the service to the levels that our residents expect and deserve.”
In the short term, FCC will be running three different recycling collections services across the area. 26,000 residents will continue to have their recycling sorted at the kerbside into the new vehicles. 11,000 residents will have their recycling collected in a different vehicle and it will be sorted at a local sorting facility. 8,000 residents, will remain on the clear and blue sack system for the time being.
All residents are being asked to continue to separate their recycling following the instructions, regardless of which vehicle arrives on your collection day. This will "ensure that your recycling is separated and ready to be sorted at the kerbside as soon as the new service resumes".
SHDC said it would "also directly contact all of those people who have been impacted the most, with further information about what to do now".
FCC have given the Council assurances that absolutely nothing will go to landfill.
Councillor Julian Brazil however, took to social media to hit out at the continued "recycling chaos", saying: "You couldn't make it up. We are now going to have three different recycling systems. This includes residents sorting their recycling, FCC mixing it up again (co-mingling) and then Viridor separating it out again. This will continue up to the end of 2021.
"Evidently we can't sack FCC as this would be in breach of the contract. Their failure to collect or recycle our rubbish on the other hand is fine. It now looks very likely they are going to ask for more money and I can't see SHDC having the bottle to say no. It's a complete stitch up.
"In the meantime, people's rubbish is not being collected, assisted collections just aren't happening, people are giving up on recycling and we're told there's nothing we can do. Completely unacceptable - no wonder people are angry and frustrated."
Another South Hams Councillor, Denise O'Callaghan, added: "Quite right to bring this out into the public domain. It is a basic public service which has been privately outsourced - when it goes badly wrong the public should have a right to know what is happening. As a district councillor I feel ashamed to be associated with such an incompetent level of service."
FCC Environment released a statement last week apologising for the situation. The statement in full reads:
"Following the South Hams Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting in South Hams on 10 June, FCC Environment would like to confirm that it provided a full and frank account of the current status outlining potential resolutions with regard the new recycling service in South Hams during this session. The meeting was recorded and this recording acts as a permanent public record of our current position.
"FCC Environment has been focusing its efforts on rectifying the issues that it has experienced in rolling out the new recycling service in South Hams.
"We would like to once again apologise to affected residents for the ongoing issues with the delivery of this service and we understand how frustrating it has been for the residents we are struggling to reach. We are continuing our efforts to reach those who have been without a service.
"We have already mobilised significant additional resource to the contract and we have re-assessed all of the options available to us to address these issues. One possible option is temporary changes to the recycling service to overcome the very real challenges we have faced that have prevented us from collecting from some residents. These options are currently with the council to review.
"We are still experiencing very high volumes of materials which is positive as residents clearly want to recycle and are keen to use the new system. However, these increased volumes have exceeded the available capacity on the vehicles meaning they have to return to the recycling depot more frequently during the day to unload before being able to continue collecting. We would like to reiterate that the vehicles which were selected to deliver this service are purpose built, state of the art recycling vehicles and they are sized to maximise the collection of recycling across the district.
"These increased volumes have also resulted in the recycling depot being full making both unloading of the collection vehicles and the onward operations much more complex. We are working hard and exploring all options in order to find solutions for dealing with these increased volumes.
"We will provide further service updates in due course.
"In the meantime, we do ask residents to continue to follow council advice to place their recycling bins and boxes in the right places for collection. We appreciate for some that this may mean changes to the way their recycling has been collected previously but we ask for your ongoing support on this and we can assure residents that materials put out for recycling are being recycled.
"We would like to thank those residents who have been affected for their continued patience whilst we work to resolve the current difficulties. We remain confident that, once these hurdles have been overcome and with some possible service changes to ease the pressure, that the service we have been contracted to operate across South Hams and West Devon will deliver all of the benefits promised at the outset."
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