West Sussex County Council has announced that it will be ending payments of recycling credits to District and Borough Councils from 1 April 2020.

The decision was made at a council cabinet meeting on Tuesday 3 December after a report by the Acting Executive Director Place Services, called ‘Reduction in funding for recycling credits’, revealed that a £40 million of recycling credits since 2006/07 – around £4 million a year – had ‘not driven any significant improvement in performance’.

Recycling credits are paid by waste disposal authorities (WDAs) to waste collection authorities (WCAs) for increasing the amount of material they recycle, supporting the sharing of costs for waste and recycling between WDAs and WCAs.
Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for environment, said: “We receive monies from the sale of recyclate and regulations state that those monies should be shared with collection authorities to help cover their costs of separate collection of paper, card, plastic and cans.

“But where there is co-mingled collection such as here in West Sussex and the disposal authority pays for the sorting of that recycling, as we do, there is no need for a sharing mechanism as the councils save on collection costs.”

In 2019/20, the payments to West Sussex’s District and Borough Councils are expected to range from £400,000 for Crawley to £800,000 for Adur & Worthing and Mid Sussex. The cessation of recycling credits is expected to save £4.1 million for West Sussex County Council in 2020/21.

Urquhart added: “We have been sharing the monies on the understanding that it would be used on projects to increase the recycling rate. But after eight years and £40 million, the rate has stalled, the incentive is not working.”

Cllr Urquhart stated that the small increase in recycling rate over the past two years to 51.1 per cent was down to the recycling of street sweepings as part of a contracted service paid for by the County Council, and the introduction of alternate weekly collections of residual waste by Horsham and Adur & Worthing Councils.

She added: “We are proposing to no longer give recycling credits to the District and Borough Councils, to save half of the money, but to put half at their request to be put into a reserve to be spent on appropriate projects that lead to a significant increase in recycling rates.”

This reserve would be £2 million for 2020/21 and would allow District and Borough Councils to access money if they commit to implementing a New Service Model for refuse and recycling collections, including separate food waste collections, or if they submit acceptable project ideas that would have a significant impact on recycling performance and costs.

The report stresses that moving to a New Service Model is vital for the County Council and collection authorities, and that there will be ‘no real prospect’ of meeting expected new recycling targets laid out in the Resources and Waste Strategy and Environment Bill without one.

District and Borough Councils expressed their opposition to the ending of recycling credit payments in comments made in a consultation on the proposed changes. Adur & Worthing Councils stated that the recycling credits they received were spent on existing services and that ‘savings elsewhere in the system’ would be necessary to absorb the cuts.

Arun District Council called for a gradual reduction for the funding rather than an instant cut to be better able to mitigate its impact, while Chichester District Council stated that the withdrawal of the payments would ‘significantly reduce its current recycling engagement activities’, hampering its ability to collect new waste streams and reduce contamination.

West Sussex County Council is made up of seven District and Borough Councils: Adur, Worthing (Adur and Worthing have operated under a joint management structure since 1 April 2018), Arun, Chichester, Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex.

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