Is Lack Of Communication Responsible For Poor Recycling Rates In Stoke-on-Trent?

Hidden away in a press release informing residents of Stoke-on-Trent of changes to bin collections days over the festive period, if you read past the dates, you will see that cardboard can no longer placed in to brown bins.

Almost as an after thought the couple of lines reads

Residents are also being advised that from Monday 2 January 2012 they will no longer be able to dispose of cardboard in their brown bin. After this date people will need to put cardboard in their blue bin. If a brown bin contains cardboard after January 31 2012 the owner will receive a contamination notice and their bin will not be emptied.

These changes are due to a change in the quality standard of compost which can be adversly affected by the presence of printed cardboard. In light of the change in quality standards, in July the company which takes compostable waste from Stoke-on-Trent City Council informed the counil that they would no longer be accepting cardboard.

While Stoke-on-Trent City Council, pass this important information on to residents almost as an after thought, other councils who use the same company for the compostable waste have taken more high profile action to make sure their residents are aware of the changes.

Derbyshire Dales District Councils delivered leaflets to the 33,000 homes across the Dales back in August explaining that cardboard material be transferred from the compostable waste collection into the dry recycling collection.

Staffordshire Moorlands Cabinet met and agreed to begin communicating the changes to residents via leaflets to all households and roadshows  around the area with Moorlands Radio back in September.

In Stoke-on-Trent some 86,000 (76%) of households  are on the enhanced recycling scheme with grey, blue & brown bins and have had no communication about where their cardboard needs to go other than those few lines in the press release.

As for the rest of the city who have a small green box for glass and metal and a blue bag for paper. There is no mention anywhere about cardboard recycling if you are not on the enhanced scheme. In fact the instructions on the side of the green box make it very clear that you are not to put cardboard in this box. The What Can I put In My Bin page on the council website backs up this instruction not to put cardboard in your green box.

Then the Changes To Your Recycling Collections page on the council website says you can leave cardboard with your green bin.

So what do you do with plastics  if you don’t have a blue bin? Well according to the What Can I Put In My Bin page, if you don’t have a blue bin then all you can do is put it in the waste for incineration or landfill.

But if you phone the council and speak to someone in the enviromental directorate you will find out that you can in-fact put plastics in your green box as well as cardboard.

We have reported many times in the past about how poor the recycling rates are in the city and questioned the recycling method but this is something far simpler, it is just a case of providing information to people.

If you are on the enhanced recycling scheme it is easy as you have 3 bins, if your not on this scheme and only have the green box and blue bag, the chances are you have been putting plastic and cardboard in with the household waste for incineration which is why according to council figures, 51% of our household waste still goes to the incinerator and 10% to landfill.

Thanks to Ian Norris for providing some of the information in this post

Enhanced Recycling – What Cost To The City?

When it was introduced, the enhanced recycling scheme was sold to residents on the basis that it would save the City £1million per year as well as achieving an enhanced rate of recycling that would enable the council to meet its recycling targets.

Throughout the supposed trial many of us raised objections and asked serious questions about the claims being made by Officers.

As I saw it, the issues at the time were, whether the particular methods of recycling being proposed by the Council provided the best mix of cost, efficiency and, importantly, security. The latter was important as we had just experienced a collapse in global markets for recycled materials and only those of the highest quality were being sold, the rest remained unsold in depots across the country.

The Councils proposals were a retrograde step in this regard and the claimed saving of £1million did not stack up as it had so many glaring omissions, not least ignoring the costs of disposal of the recycled materials.

It has taken some months but now a number of FOIs have begun to reveal the truth which is both frightening and also sickening that the Council can be so bad and cost its citizens so much.

Enhanced Recycling Scheme – Costs not budgeted for

  • Blue Wheelie bins. (It was originally planned for these to be leased) ““ £1,600,000
  • Termination cost for current kerbside contract – £50,000
  • Redevelopment of Burslem MRF – £263,170
  • Increased business rates for Burslem MRF (previously paid by the contractor) – unknown
  • Changes to Fowlchurch depot ““ interim arrangements – £20,000
  • Increased cost of disposal of green and food waste

Under the old scheme:

  • Green Waste Tonnes ““ 7,500 tonnes x £26.00 = £195,000

Under the enhanced scheme:

  • Green & Food Waste Tonnes ““ 16,000 tonnes x £65 = £1,040,000
  • Additional cost – £845,000
  • Increased costs of disposal of green waste from Household Waste sites – unknown
  • Increased costs of park and highways green waste disposal – unknown (The real reason why grass cuttings were left on the verge)
  • Change in costs of disposal of dry recyclables (paper, plastic etc.) – unknown
  • Loss of revenue from Newcastle BC @ £7.00/tonne – unknown (Newcastle used the Burslem MRF until they were kicked out)
  • Cost of diversion of waste from Waste to Energy plant – £645,000
  • Costs of TUPE staff from Abitibi to Council ““ unknown
  • Additional staff brought in to manage scheme;
    2 assistant recycling officers plus 1 coordinator – £75,000

Total Costs not budgeted for – £3,498,170

The purchase of the blue wheelie bins cost the City £1.6million but was not necessary and indeed the Government body appointed by the Council to advise on the scheme, WRAP, advised the Council to go down a different route that did not require purchase of wheelie bins. WRAP advised the use of multi compartment vehicles to allow kerbside sorting of dry recyclables, together with separate collections for food waste and garden waste.

The details are as follows;

  1. The Council appointed WRAP to advise on measures to increase recycling in the City to achieve recycling targets laid down in legislation
  2. WRAP produced a report based on improving the established kerbside sorting scheme and introducing collection of food waste. WRAP concluded that an improvement to this scheme including a weekly collection of food waste (separate from garden waste) would be the best scheme and would only entail the purchase of kitchen caddies (@£2ish each) for the food waste. In their report WRAP never advised the Council to purchase new wheelie bins as none were needed for their preferred method of collection. WRAP are also critical of the scope of the report as they were not asked to include disposal costs. WRAP decided to do so anyway.
  3. The WRAP report was buried, Cllrs were not advised of its existence and no Cllrs saw it until recently. WRAP offered to present to cabinet but this offer was ignored by officers.
  4. A certain officer later produced a report which doctored the WRAP conclusions and claimed WRAP recommended comingled collection (it did not) and that this would require purchase of new wheelie bins (@ £17ish each). Total cost of the bins was £1.6million.
  5. The Council did not go to tender for the bins.
  6. The Council did not get written quotes or written assurances of time for delivery from suppliers.
  7. The same officer stated that only one supplier could supply bins within the timeframe, Craemer. No written evidence exists of any enquiries to Craemer or indeed to any other supplier.
  8. The same officer ordered the bins without authorisation from a Cllr or from the EMB. Note: the order was placed in Oct & Nov 2008, before the recycling trial. It appears the officer had decided strategy himself without reference to any others.
  9. The contractor responsible for the existing recycling scheme is told that he contract will termiate in April 2009, before the trials.
  10. To facilitate the change to co-mingled collection and to bring this service in-house, changes were required to the Federation Road MRF which cost in the order of £ 263,170. See this FOI Request

The knock on effect of this was that the disposal options for the food waste (now to be collected with garden waste) meant that only In Vessel Composting (IVC) was considered a suitable option, Due to the presence of food waste open windrow composting could not be used and AD was dismissed out of hand as too expensive. Note; Newcastle which previously had the same system as Stoke and shared facilities with Stoke followed WRAPs recommendations and now sends food waste to Gnosall to an anaerobic digestion plant (@£35/tonne – note the price), garden waste still goes to Simpro @ £26/tonne.

The next steps in the story are;

  1. A tender was issued for IVC in the City.
  2. Vital Earth from Ashbourne complained angrily and verbally about the limitation on having a site within the City and claimed it prevented them from tendering. It did not they just had to acquire a suitable site as any other competitor would have to.
  3. This same officer then stated that there was no suitable site within the city, this despite having received a proposal from Biffa for exactly this at their Newstead site a year previously and despite the City Planner being in talks with other companies about AD/IVC at a particular site in the City. Following this an independent report on availability of suitable sites in Stoke was done which identified over 20 suitable sites.
  4. The tender is pulled by this same officer and re-issued allowing companies to bid whose sites are not within the City. Biffa (Newstead site) refuse to tender in the second round “it’s a done deal” was their view. In the second tender, Vital Earth put in a tender and guess what, they win. Price is £65/tonne to start with. Compare to Newcastle’s costs?

So, to sum up, it appears that a particular Council Officer decided unilaterally to terminate the kerbside recycling contract BEFORE the enhanced recycling trial, orders bins for the whole City BEFORE the trial, buries the WRAP report which is never seen by Cllrs and WRAP are not allowed to present it to them. The WRAP conclusions are then later doctored by the same officer and the City as a result has spent £1.6 million it didn’t need to spend on wheelie bins it didn’t need and issued a 10 year contract to Vital Earth in Ashbourne when a firm based in Stoke was capable of providing this service.

There are many more aspects to this story which relate to the best methods of collection/recycling, joined up working etc., but the few details above are enough to illustrate the lack of strategic thinking and lack of any kind of effective management in this section of the Council.

What do our Councillors make of this? Any of them care to comment?

Links to other relevant FOIs are below

It’s good to be GREEN!

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Recently we brought to the inside track on the new party ‘The Jury Team’ .

To continue with our theme of demonstrating that the electorate does not have to turn to extreme parties to register a protest vote we bring you this latest news on the Green Party’s bid to get more representatives in Europe.

A YouGov poll published recently suggests the British public trusts Green politicians far more than those of other parties.

Over 2,000 people were asked – regardless of the party they normally voted for – which party’s politicians they thought were most likely to put their own financial interests before the interests of their country. Allowed to choose three parties, only 5% named the Greens as likely to put self-interest before the country’s.

The survey also shows:

  • Labour appeared to be the least trusted, with 45% of respondents naming Labour politicians as likely to put financial self-interest before their country.
  • The Conservatives were almost as bad, with 40% naming them.
  • Next were the BNP, the LibDems and UKIP on 20%, 16% and 15% respectively.

The new poll was released in the same week that campaign group Open Europe rated the Green Party’s leader Caroline Lucas as the joint best British MEP on accountability, transparency and reform. The bottom nine places in the Open Europe survey were occupied by four Conservatives and five UKIP MEPs – with the tenth-worst British MEP slot being held jointly by UKIP leader Nigel Farage and an MEP each from Labour, the Conservatives and the LibDems.

Voter-intention polls show Greens are up, UKIP and BNP down

The Greens say that while there’s much talk of an anti-sleaze protest vote going to the racist BNP, in fact the opinion polls are showing the Green Party to be a far more likely recipient of any protest vote.

  • The ComRes poll of 17 May, commissioned by UKIP, put the Greens on 11% and the BNP on just 4%.
  • The ComRes poll put the Greens on 13% across Northern England – easily enough for Green candidate Peter Cranie to defeat BNP leader Nick Griffin in the North West contest.
  • The ComRes poll showed the Greens in third place in the South East, ready to return party leader Caroline Lucas MEP and scoop up a second seat for Brighton councillor Keith Taylor.
  • A YouGov poll commissioned by the Green Party (2) suggested 34% would either definitely vote Green or would consider voting Green in the Euro-elections if they knew more about them.
  • And the Guardian/ICM poll of 22 May put the Greens on 9% – just behind UKIP (10%) but way ahead of the BNP (1%).

The Guardian/ICM poll showed a Green increase of 50% compared with the actual 2004 vote (up from 6% to 9%) while UKIP was down more than a third (from 16% to 10%) and the BNP vote was cut by about four-fifths (down from 5% to 1%).

The Greens point out that polls ahead of Euro-elections usually under-estimate the Green Party. In 1989 the Greens were showing in the polls at about 7-8% but their actual vote turned out to be 15%.

The Greens believe their million-jobs manifesto for tackling the recession and the climate crisis at the same time has probably struck a chord with a lot of people.


1. Poll commissioned by the Green Party and conducted by YouGov. Fieldwork 13-15 May 2009. Sample size 2,111. The exact question was: “Regardless of the party you usually vote for, which party’s politicians do you think are most likely to put their own financial interests ahead of the interests of the country? [Please tick up to three.]”

2.  Poll commissioned by the Green Party and conducted by YouGov. Fieldwork 29 April-1 May 2009. Sample size 2,046.

Source: Green Party.

Minister Opens “Wonderful facility for local people”

By Tony Walley.

The “Ëœgreenest’ building in Stoke-on-Trent was today officially opened by Minister for the West Midlands Ian Austin MP.

The new Stoke Local Service Centre provides all Stoke-on-Trent City Council services in Stoke and is the new home for the town’s library.

Visits to the library have more than doubled since the move to the new location.

Ian Austin, Derek Capey & Pervez

Ian Austin, Derek Capey & Pervez

“This building is a great example of environmental construction and a wonderful facility for local people. It also celebrates the city’s past by finding a new use for the historic market hall,” said Minister Ian Austin.

Deputy Elected Mayor Cllr Mohammed Pervez introduced Ian Austin to guests.
“The purpose of the Centre is to help local people access the full range of City Council services all under one roof ““ and it’s a very green roof indeed. I’m especially proud that the Centre has been built using state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly, technology to make it the “Ëœgreenest’ building in the City,” said Cllr Pervez.

The building houses a “Ëœone-stop-shop’ giving customers access to a huge range of council services including bus pass issue, blue badges, council tax, benefits, housing repairs and recycling information. The library has over 24,000 books and 1,000 electronic media items.

The regeneration team for Stoke is housed in the Local Service Centre, working to boost the local economy.

The building has a “Ëœgreen’ exterior roof planted with the alpine plant “Ëœsedum’ to improve insulation and absorb rainfall. It also features solar panels; photo-voltaic cells; rain water collection for toilet flushing; wind catchers; sun tubes; and a heat pump to utilise the earth’s natural heat.

Going Green

Here at Pits n Pots we are always looking at ways we can reduce our carbon footprint. Â  We are looking in to a way of calculating how much Green House Gas we produce creating this blog and how many trees we have saved by making an executive decision not to run it as a weekly printed paper (seriously!).

So we did a bit of research in to ‘going green in Stoke-on-Trent‘, lets see what other businesses are doing and see how our ideas fit in, so we started with Stoke-on-Trent City Council, as public servants and local government they are bound to have a pretty robust green policy. We had a look and there is a green and white paper on climate change, published in July 2008 by Mayor Meredith, look here.

As we were doing our research one of our regular readers called us to say they had seen Mayor Meredith pulling up at the Civic Centre in his new car, not sure what it was but it was a silver grey one. Excellent we thought, he’ll be in a GeeWizz or some other eco friendly vehicle.


We’ll get down to Glebe Street and get an interview with him about his new car.  No doubt he will be telling us about the recharging points that will be installed around the city so more people will follow his lead and go green.  A few pictures and that can be our story for the weekend, something positive after all some of the more negative stories and comments that we have had this week.  Lets end the week on a good news story!

So Tony and I hot footed it off to Glebe Street with our photographer.

We had a look around the car park but no sign of the Mayors new eco car anywhere.  Maybe he parks it somewhere else so he can plug it in to charge it we mused.  Yes, that’ll be it we thought, he’ll be parking round the back of the Civic Centre so he can plug it in.

So off we wandered out of the car park on Kingsway in search of the mayor and his new car.  We had a good look around the Civic Centre but we could not find the new eco car anywhere, so we gave our source a quick call to get some more information, our source confirmed that they had seen Mayor Meredith park his new car at Kingsway, we got a bit more information and went back to have a second look, well they are pretty small these electric cars I said, so we could have missed it..

After a bit of searching we found Mayor Merediths new car, silver / grey it is, eco friendly it is not!

This, ladies and gentleman, is Mark Merediths Chrysler CRD 300C. Its 2987cc engine will power it from 0-60 in 7 seconds with a maximum speed of 143mph.


It consumes fuel at a similar rate to Rick Waller (ITVs Pop Idol starlet supernova) consuming pies, a massive 34mpg.

This is as close as you can get to a small coal fire power station on wheels.

I have contacted the press office at the Civic Centre to ask if they would like to comment on Mayor Merediths choice of car in light of his green paper on climate change and in particular Action Point 3Develop plans with partners and local communities to reduce GHG emissions.  The press office have yet to respond to us here at Pits n Pots, but when they do we will be sure to update you.

Having a car that produces CO2 at 215 g/km will be working towards that green policy quite nicely!  Looking at the CO2 emissions list this car falls in to the top 20% of most polluting cars currently on sale in the UK..

Please feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.