Successful Littlehampton food waste collection trial has been extended

A trial which sees food waste collected separately from general waste for some Littlehampton households has been extended.

The 1-2-3 food waste pilot is run by Arun District Council, in partnership with West Sussex County Council, and ADC’s environment committee approved its continuation on Thursday (20 January).

More than 1,300 households in Littlehampton are taking part in the trial which started at the ‘Birds Estate’, in the Courtwick and Toddington ward, in May 2021 and was extended to Bayford Row, in River ward, in September.

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Now it will run until February 2023 and could be used as a model for roll-out across the whole district.

Food waste bins used in the Arun trial

Environment committee chair David Edwards (Con, Felpham East) thanked all the residents who took part.

“With your support we have managed to recycle over 86 tonnes of food waste in the first six months of the trial and have also seen an increase in the amount of items recycled at the kerbside,” he said.

“This is a brilliant result for the trial and really goes to show that residents

are on board with the trial scheme. We are therefore pleased that the trial will be able to continue, as the results so far have demonstrated that residents have really embraced this initiative and we hope that this will continue over the coming months.”

During the trial, households had weekly food waste and optional absorbent hygiene product (AHP) collections in addition to fortnightly recycling and three-weekly rubbish collections.

At the meeting, Paul Bicknell (Con, Angmering and Findon) asked if the whole district could one day have three-weekly refuse collections.

Officers said: “That’s the vision but we’re not yet at that stage.  Ultimately, that will be the members’ decision but I think from an officer perspective we’re really really pleased with how it’s gone.”

Currently the food waste is collected by Biffa, bulked in Ford, and then transported to an anaerobic digester in Basingstoke.

Isabel Thurston (Green, Barnham) asked if more could be done to encourage composting.

“At the beginning of the trial, we noticed that quite a lot of the food waste was both edible or could have been composted,” she said.

“In fact, 21 per cent could have been composted.”

Ms Thurston was referring to figures from across West Sussex, which showed that food waste made up more than 42 per cent – or more than 12,000 tonnes – of residual waste.

Shockingly, more than 8,200 tonnes was identified as ‘edible’ and 21 per cent could have been composted.

Officers said: “The more you can do at the source i.e. home composting, the better but obviously it’s not for everyone and people are restricted with space.”

Kelly Heller from WSCC has been helping to run the food waste trial and said residents can apply for a subsidised compost bin from the council.

Officers said that the trial had been a valuable learning experience and that challenges centred around flats and HMOs.

“How we provided bins for some of the HMOs was a logistical nightmare because there were so many different collection points and arrangements,”  environmental services manager Oliver Handson said.

“When we looked at data from other authorities and industry guidance around participation in HMO and flatted properties, actually the expected participation was only around 20 per cent – so we are well in excess of that,” he added.

Participation for flats and HMOs in the trial rose to 86 per cent and 2.1 tonnes of food waste was collected.

Why is the trial taking place?

Regulations require councils to recycle 50 per cent of their waste by 2020 and 55 per cent by 2025 and food waste can be included in this figure.

In addition, The Environment Act – which received royal assent in November – makes councils responsible for collecting food waste separately.

Arun currently recycles 42.3 per cent of its waste but, if the food waste collection is made permanent, the council expects to meet the 2025 target (55 per cent) and the target for 2030 (60 per cent).

It is thought that extra staff may be needed as demand on existing council teams has been ‘substantial’ during the trial, according to officers.

After the meeting, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for environment and climate change Deborah Urquhart said: “The trial is a huge step towards achieving not only the government mandate of separate food waste collections by 2023, but also the climate change goals set by both West Sussex and Arun District Councils.

“We thank all residents taking part for embracing the new service so readily, and for helping us to explore the future of recycling in West Sussex.”