Household rubbish and recycling collection in Uckfield and a wide area of East Sussex will be undertaken by a new contractor from summer 2019.
The East Sussex Joint Waste Partnership, made up of Wealden and Rother district councils and Hastings and Eastbourne borough councils, has agreed a “mutual exit” with present contractor Kier for rubbish collection, recycling and beach cleansing services.
The contract, said to be worth £120m over ten years, is due to end on June 28, 2019. It had been due to run until 2023.
Collection switched to Kier from the directly-managed service by Wealden in 2013 and immediately ran into huge problems.
There was uproar from all parts of Uckfield and wider district over missed collections.
Some people went weeks without their bins being emptied and threatened to stop paying their council tax.
In more recent times, the service has settled with the council saying “the contract is currently working well for collections”.
Latest figures show Wealden’s recycling rate is 49 per cent.
The contract with Kier covers about 200,000 properties across an area of more than 550 square miles.
Wealden savings of £30m predicted
It was said in 2013 that the councils in the partnership would save an estimated £30 million over the next decade, and increase recycling rates in the four authorities.
“We expect Wealden to be saving in the region of £750,000 per year, £7.5 million over the ten-year period,” the district council said at the time.
Julian Tranter, managing director, Kier, explained the company’s decision to exit the contract.
He said: “Kier has been delivering waste, recycling, beach and street cleansing services as part of the East Sussex Joint Waste Partnership since 2013, delivering excellent service to circa 200,000 properties in the region.
“We’re proud of our satisfaction rate of 95% and our investment in local community projects.
“Following significant change in the recycling market, Kier and East Sussex Joint Waste Partnership have mutually agreed to end the contract with effect from 28 June 2019.
“We continue to work closely together to provide a high-quality service for residents and stability for our teams during the transition.”
A spokesman for the East Sussex Joint Waste Partnership said:
“The four councils save £3m a year through our partnership with Kier, and the average recycling rate across the partnership has increased from 37 per cent to 40 per cent, that’s an extra 1500 tonnes or 130 lorry loads a year.
Our focus as a partnership remains on the standard of services being provided for residents so we will continue working locally with Kier to achieve the best possible levels of service over the next two years. By the time the contract expires the councils will have saved circa £18m”.
What happens after 2019?
The joint waste contract will serve residents living in the Eastbourne, Hastings, Rother and Wealden council areas until June 28, 2019.
The four councils will determine the way forward during 2017 to ensure the new service complies with legislative changes and provides the most economic and sustainable waste, recycling and street cleansing services before any procurement takes place.
How will these services be dealt with until 2019?
The services will continue to be provided by Kier until the end of the contract in 2019. Residents will be able to continue to use the kerbside waste and recycling collection system as they currently do and should continue to recycle as much as they can.
What’s changed since the contract was let?
A key factor has been the falling price of recyclates.
In 2016 Kier Group set aside £35 million for future expense across its East Sussex and Cheshire West and Chester collection contracts, because of low prices.
Letsrecycle.com reported that the group’s Environmental Services business “continues to be affected by the low price of oil – and a subsequent drop in the price for the sale of recyclables – despite ‘stable operational performance’ at contract level”.
Paper, glass, and plastics are all international commodities with the prices rising and falling due to supply and demand.
Changes in China can impact on prices gained for recycled plastic in the UK.
Oil is a major factor affecting the price of plastic recyclates.
A drop in the price of oil – a key ingredient of plastic – makes using crude oil cheaper than recycled plastics.
Many councils across Britain have entered in long-term contracts with companies to collect household rubbish and recycling; some up to 35 years.
Some councils have used reviews to re-frame or go out to tender on these contracts to ensure value for taxpayers.
In the case of the East Sussex partnership, it is not known who “pulled the trigger” to bring about an end to the contract in 2019.
From our files