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For Your Information

At a meeting of the South Hams Executive on 16 September Councillors received an update on the waste and recycling situation in South Hams and have reluctantly agreed to keep the suspension of garden waste in place. The Executive will review the situation when they meet again on 14 October.

Garden Waste Suspension - FAQs

Answers to some commonly asked questions about the suspension of garden waste collections in the South Hams.

Why are you suspending collections?

As the national shortage of LGV and HGV drivers continues, we have had to make the tough decision to prioritise vital recycling and refuse collections at the expense of garden waste collections. Garden waste collections are not a statutory service. Suspending garden waste collections will allow staff to be redeployed to support vital rubbish and recycling services. It also helps to keep disruption across other services to a minimum.

What do I do with my garden waste during the suspension?

You must not put garden waste in the grey wheelie bin. Instead please try one of the options below:

The Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service firmly advises against having bonfires, given the risks of fires spreading, the likely nuisance for neighbours and the potential diversion of emergency services. Check out their downloadable bonfire leaflet here.

Why can't garden waste go in the grey wheelie bin?

Garden waste holds valuable nutrients which should be returned to the soil in any way possible. If it is put in the grey wheelie bin it will be sent to an Energy from Waste facility where it will be burnt and the nutrients will be lost. Please home compost or take your garden waste to your local recycling centre during this time.

How long will the suspension last?

We are working closely with our contractor, FCC Environment, during this period to review the situation regularly as the national driver shortage crisis develops. Please continue to home compost or take your garden waste to recycling centres until the restart date is confirmed, we will let you know when you can start using your brown bin again. We will update our website, social media and local press regularly to keep you up to date.

Will you take extra waste outside of the bin when the service restarts?

We are very sorry but it will not be possible to collect additional garden waste not in your brown bin when collections are restarted. Please home compost your garden waste or take it to the recycling centre, we will let you know when you can start using your brown bin again.

What do I do if my brown bin is already full?

If you are able to remove the garden waste from the bin to home compost it or take it to your local recycling, please do so. If you are not able to remove the garden waste from the bin we will try to collect what we can when garden waste collections resume. Please avoid adding additional garden waste to the bin during the suspension, we will let you know when you can start using your brown bin again.

Why is there a shortage of drivers?

The UK is currently facing a skilled driver shortage created by a perfect storm of issues including:

  • Ageing workforce - the average age of HGV drivers in the UK is 55. As drivers reach retirement age there are not enough newly trained drivers to replace them.
  • Backlog of driver tests - during the national lockdowns test centres were closed for several months. This has created a backlog of tests for new skilled drivers as well for existing drivers who are required to re-test at regular intervals.
  • Loss of European drivers - during the pandemic many drivers from Europe returned home with many not returning. Brexit has also made jobs in the UK less appealing to European workers, particularly drivers.
  • 'Pingdemic' - the 'pingdemic' made the existing issues above worse. While the effects from this has mostly worn off and many drivers are back at work the issues above continue to have significant impact.

Will residents get a council tax refund because of the service suspension?

We are very sorry for the inconvenience of the suspension.

Council tax is a way of funding councils for the many services they provide, including waste collection. It is not the same as having a contract for a specific service; therefore we are not able to offer a refund of your council tax.

We are continuing to prioritise the services which we have a statutory duty to provide, such as refuse and recycling collections. Garden waste collection is a non-statutory service which has been provided at the Council's discretion. We recognise the value of this service to residents and will it restart as soon as possible. The issues currently affecting services are nationwide challenges, i.e. the driver shortage, and are out of our control.

It is worth noting that South Hams District Council only retains 8% of Council Tax we collect, with the remainder transferring to Devon County Council, the Police and Fire Services and your local town or parish council. The cost per household for the provision of all recycling and waste collections, including garden waste, is roughly £1.50 per week.

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