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Trucks too big as new Super Recycling system causes chaos across the South Hams

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Trucks too big as new Super Recycling system causes chaos across the South Hams

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Trucks being too big for the lanes in the South Hams has been one of the problems causing problems in the South Hams as the Super Recycling service is rolled out. 

We spoke to a South Hams District Council employee, who asked to remain anonymous, who pointed out some of the problems. 

They said: "The lorries don't fit. We all told them it wouldn’t work. We all told them it wasn’t going to work from day one. The roads are too narrow to walk down the side of a vehicle to load the recycling and access is bad enough with the old lorries, the new ones are bigger.

"The crews don’t like it. They're very long days. Used to be 7am till 3pm, now it’s 7am till 6pm most days, it’s hard work, lots or bending down to pick the boxes up and more walking than ever, back and forth with all the boxes, and new assists due to old people not being able to carry the boxes down their drives. There has been a few cuts from broken glass, even through the gloves.

"So many properties are being missed, we've had about 1,600 missed reports. Loddiswell was missed completely for two weeks and then this week only 70 per cent got collected.

"We have gone from six lorry’s to 15, how the hell is that better for the environment?"

They said that the changes to the lorries also meant that extra trips to and from the depot were required too. They said: "Yealmpton and Brixton used to be done by one big lorry and one small lorry, and they were finished by 3pm. 

"Now, just Yealmpton has two lorries and they have to tip three times so have to drive all the way back to lvybridge each time.

"Over a million pounds wasted on new lorry’s that don’t fit and won’t work but FCC won’t lose face and admit it won’t work. They changed the routes in October for bins and that was a disaster and still isn’t sorted let alone rolling out a new recycling system.  

Things are starting to move in the right direction though, as the smaller vehicles were beginning to be spotted on the roads. 

Roger Finbow, a Loddiswell resident, confirmed that large swaths of the village were missed last week and said: "Late on Wednesday afternoon I phoned SHDC to find out what was going on. The lady I spoke to was very apologetic (and embarrassed that it was such a mess). She confirmed that this was a district wide issue and also confirmed, what we had suspected all along, that the vehicles are too large for many of the roads in the South Hams.

"Apparently, they do have smaller vehicles which she said were 'ready and raring to go' but was not able to say when this would be. When I asked what are we supposed to do in meantime with the mounting pile of stuff that can't go in the containers because they are full, she suggested we could either take it to the tip OR it could be put in black sacks in the grey bins i.e. be sent to landfill!"

He later sent an email with photographic evidence that the smaller vehicles had come to Loddiswell. He said: "We were very surprised, having been told yesterday that SHDC could not say when the smaller collection vehicles would be on the road, to have one turn up today to collect our waste!"

The smaller vehicle in Loddiswell last week - credit Roger Finbow

Collecting the recycling does not seem to be the only issue, with Emily Page being left with dozens of recycling boxes on her car park, to the point she gave them all away to local people. 

She said: "South Hams had a directive to deliver to all registered addresses. We are 36 apartments, all second homes, 3/4 used as holiday lets as well. South Hams are completely unable to satisfy our waste needs so we have to pay a private contractor to collect our waste.

"SHDC delivered 36 sets of boxes four weeks ago. I called them to ask them to pick them up and they were very blasé about the whole thing and asked if we’d like to keep them anyway! We need the full car park back from 17th May as we’re expecting full occupancy again so I thought I’d give local people the opportunity to take the boxes etc.

"I can’t believe the response! Clearly this whole scheme has been a complete failure. Such a shame they didn’t do their homework."

Not everyone was negative about the new roll out though, with one person posting in the Ivybridge Community Group that she "loved" the new system. She said: "I can recycle so much more and love that I can stack the boxes neatly instead of the ugly bags hanging around 😀 As for the bin guys, I think they are amazing too!

"They work so hard and even though they are under pressure they have always taken the time to at least give a nod a wave and a smile (Even if somewhat strained 😊) I intend to get them a little treat, maybe make a cake, just to let them know that a lot of us do appreciate them."

Cllr Keith Baldry, South Hams District Council’s Lead Member for Waste and Recycling said: “There have been some problems with the new Super Recycler service in the last few weeks. We’ve got to hold our hands up and say that the rollout has not been as smooth as we would have hoped.

“The new service rollout has been running concurrently with the old service, so we’ve effectively been running two services at once. We have a variety of different sized vehicles to collect recycling under the new service. Where roads are identified as unsuitable for a certain size of vehicle, these are re-allocated to a different sized vehicle. There have been some routes that are not identified in advance; in such cases we are re-allocating these to the appropriate sized vehicle as soon as possible.

“Once these sorts of problems have been ironed out, we believe in this service, as it has been demonstrated to work well across West Devon for years now. The aim of the new service is to improve our recycling rates, as part of our efforts to combat climate change.

“We’ve had a huge response to the service and there has been a huge volume of recycling to process, which shows that people want to improve their recycling rates. We ask that people bear with us at this time as the new service will be hugely beneficial to the environment in the long run.

“Residents can report their missed collections online at We aim to collect missed grey and brown bins within three working days. While we complete the change-over to the new service for all residents, we are sorry to say that we cannot return for any missed recycling. We ask that residents keep it until the next collection.

"In such cases, residents can put additional recycling out in any sturdy container although the recycling still needs to be sorted in the same way as the other containers. Where possible, we ask that residents use recycling banks for items such as glass and paper.”

Statement on behalf of FCC Environment: 

"On 1st April 2019, FCC Environment began providing all waste, recycling collection and street and toilet cleaning services on behalf of South Hams District Council extending the company’s existing contract with West Devon Borough Council to deliver a range of benefits to residents in both communities.

"The waste and recycling service in West Devon, which mirrors the system rolled out in South Hams, has been successfully operating for over 10 years and residents have responded well. The recycling vehicles now in use in South Hams have been in use in West Devon since March 2018.

"The system, which was specified by South Hams Council and is considered ‘best in class’ by many other local authorities in England, has been carefully designed to maximise the amount of materials collected for recycling, reducing waste in the grey bin, which is what residents wanted to see. The system also delivers quality recyclate, which means the materials will go on to be recycled into new products.

"But behind the scenes this system has been far from easy to implement in South Hams and we acknowledge there have been teething problems, which have resulted in some residents having missed collections and we are truly sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

"It is important to note however that we will be collecting from nearly 46,000 households on this new recycling service on a weekly basis. In addition we are also collecting general waste and green waste from nearly 47,000 properties on a fortnightly basis - so the levels of missed collections reported represent a small proportion of the total.

"It should also be noted that the system was designed on the basis of recycling vehicles filling up once a day and being emptied at the end of the working day but due to the home working implications of lock downs through 2020-21 and residents saving recycling for the new system to launch, the vehicles can fill up, up to two to three times a day, so they need to travel back to the depot and unload each time but we are making our way through the implications of such unprecedented volumes.

"We are working hard to collect from residents that have been missed and to collect from the harder to reach properties on our rounds and we are getting there but we would ask residents, particularly those who have had repeated missed collections, to bear with us at this time.

"We have been questioned about the vehicles being too large for some areas, the vehicles selected to deliver this service are state of the art recycling vehicles and they are sized to maximise the collection of recycling across the District. We do residents 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 support on this

"We are asking residents to bear with us in the coming weeks while these issues with this complex recycling scheme are ironed out and we remain confident that, once these hurdles have been overcome, that the service we have been contracted to deliver across South Hams and West Devon will deliver all of the benefits promised at the outset."

As we wrote this story, Cllr Julian Brazil dropped a bombshell on social media, posting: "Apologies to everyone who has suffered from the shambolic new recycling system. Unfortunately you are not alone. Eventually SHDC did issue us (elected councillors) with a position statement. Rather shamefully they have said this needs to be kept confidential.

"We take a different view and my colleague Cllr John Birch asked that the issue be taken as an urgent item at the Full Council meeting on Thursday. Once again SHDC have refused for this issue to be discussed in public. Not to be defeated John has called for an extraordinary full council meeting supported by enough councillors to force the issue.

"We did not want to do this but SHDC's continued attempts to prevent you, as council tax payers, from seeing what is going on in an open and transparent way will not be tolerated.

"The most disappointing thing is the residents of the South Hams have always supported recycling. We did have some of the highest rates in the Country. Now with the latest fiasco some residents are just giving up.

"You deserve better."

So we will keep updating the story as we can...


User comments


It is a complete mystery to me why the complete fiasco known as the new 'Super recycling service", as it was so inaccurately called, has been allowed to continue for so long and why complaints fron local residents have been nonchalently dismissed, brushed aside, call it what you will. It boiled down to nothing being done to improve the system and indicates complete contempt for residents, who do their recycling and pay their Council Tax bills.

I personally have contacted various council members, including Judy Pearce, with no improvements offered. Usually just advice to report missed collections. What is the point when missed collections have become the norm!

I live in a very small village which since the new arrangement has been placed on two different systems of recycling collection...some have the old bag system and others, their neighbours, have the new recycling boxes, which I might say, when full, are difficult for elderly residents to carry down drives. Two systems, so two different sets of lorries to collect the recycling. As far as I can see the recycling materials which residents have carefully separated into different containers are all thrown into one single container and then into the back of a lorry!

The sooner the people responsible for this fiasco are out office, the better as far as I am concened. Let's have the return of the system which served us well for so many years.
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Absolutely disgraceful
The service or should I say “ total lack of service” is an absolute disgrace. Considering I’m paying 210.00 pounds a month for my council tax our bins, despite having to endure a much cut down service ie suspension of our green waste collections and the mixing of the food with unrecyclable waste, our grey bin is still not being collected. FCC who have completely failed in terms of their contract with the council are still being backed by the council so I am wondering what the hell is going on????
How long have the residents of the south hams got to put up with this debacle before we organise together for a non payment of council tax protest for lack of provision of services???????
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