More recycling is being collected and more are using the new green waste service than forecast, says senior North Devon councillor

North Devon Council’s Recycle More service has become a victim of its own success.

Councillor Rodney Cann says there has been a far greater take up of the service than anyone expected, including the controversial paid-for garden waste service.

Mr Cann admits it had been ‘a difficult transitional period’ since service changes were rolled out in June and the project is currently over budget by £392,000.

The council says some of this a one-off and the figure will reduce further as savings are made.

A report to the council’s executive committee earlier this month said the take up of the new garden waste service had ‘exceeded expectations’, with around 17,000 households signing up instead of the anticipated 13,000.

The volume of recycling material has also been far higher than thought, following recommendations put forward by waste consultancy Eunomia, which the council employed for £63,268.

Mr Cann said: “It has been a very steep learning curve for NDC.

“We did employ consultants and seek advice from other authorities prior to introducing the changes.

“Sadly it appears that much of the advice and guidance was well of the mark in actuality when we introduced the service changes.”

For the first six months the consultants forecast a 170 tonne increase on the base tonnage level of recycling material, whereas the council actually collected 282 tonnes extra from April to September, 65 per cent more.

Food waste was estimated to be 55 tons average but the actual figure is approximately 58 tons.

Mr Cann said it had meant putting on extra collection rounds and staff to cover the shortfall.

He also acknowledged some customers did not realise the winter green waste collection would be reduced and said criticism was justified and they would learn from this.

Next year the council is going to look at extending the service into the winter months.

But he said the budget shortfall would be offset by various factors including the higher number of people signing up to the paid-for green waste service, as well as the increased amount of recyclable materials that could be sold.

He said: “We are now looking to resolve to problems by providing support and training to staff, which will enable in-house streamlining and remodelling to reduce the number of rounds and provide an efficient service to our customers.

“In the long term there will be savings and an enhanced service. Within the next two years, working with Devon County Council, I expect there will be no waste going to landfill.”