WASTE services are back running smoothly in West Devon with recycling rates at 55 per cent, which can only improve with the introduction of a three weekly bin collection, it’s been claimed.

After a tumultuous few years, with the covid pandemic and driver shortages resulting in missed collections, West Devon Borough Council’s waste and recycling service has noted an improvement in performance in the last eight months.

New rounds are already operating and an additional vehicle is due in September. Driver shortages are no longer an issue, members heard at the council’s “hub” committee.

Cllr Lynn Daniel (Green, South Tawton), the authority’s lead member for the natural environment said two councils in Devon – Mid Devon and East Devon – already ran a three-weekly residual waste scheme and have seen their recycling rates jump to 65 per cent. She hopes West Devon will follow suit.

But this will depend on the implementation of the Environment Act of 2021 and which schemes will be championed by Defra, a government department.

Cllr Daniels said schemes which could transform recycling, including waste service deposit return schemes (a new cash incentive system, placing deposits on drinks bottles and cans) and extender producer responsibility (where producers take responsibility for management of the disposal of products they produce once those products are designated as no longer useful by consumers).

Cllr Daniels said: “We live in exciting times for waste again.”

But director of customer service delivery Steve Mullineaux issued a word of warning saying the government may say no councils can operate a three-weekly bin collection but were waiting on Defra and the results of a consultation. A waste working groups will be set up to consider the implications of the Environment Act.

West Devon was previously in a joint waste contract with South Hams District Council which started in 2019 but ended three years later when South Hams decided to take the service back in-house along with street cleaning and public toilets.

South Hams scrapped the contract with a company called FCC Environment by “mutual agreement” after two years of what they described as “extremely challenging circumstances” – missed household waste collections and suspended services by the contractor and complaints from local residents. West Devon, however, renegotiated the contract and are now happy with the service, despite previously suffering its own problems with the service becoming “less reliable”.

Cllr Lynn Daniels said the pandemic had had a profound impact on service delivery leading to the contractor becoming overstretched.

“When we renegotiated the contract we strengthened the clauses around the collections and service provision and I can report that the service has improved to the levels of reliability we expect. I would like to thank our officers for guiding the waste service so successfully through difficult times. It is something we can all be proud of and a worthy achievement.”