Twin Steam Recycling statement 29 February, 2024

by Cllr Rhys Baker, joint Cabinet Member for Environment & Waste.


Since 2018, South Kesteven District Council has carefully worked with the Lincolnshire Waste Partnership towards implementing Twin Stream recycling.

This endeavour was prompted by the Environment Act 2021, building on the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which imposed new obligations on waste collection nationwide to ensure greater consistency in recycling practices.

Last week, we initiated the rejection of contaminated bins as part of our Twin Stream recycling rollout.

Approximately 7,000 silver Mixed Dry Recycling bins were rejected across Monday and Tuesday, constituting between 20 and 25% of collections on those days. Despite this being within expected parameters, waste operatives and call-handling staff encountered a distressing level of abuse, intimidation, and threatening behaviour. Such conduct towards our hard-working staff is unacceptable; nobody goes to work to be verbally abused or threatened.

I am sure that everyone in this chamber will join me in condemning this behaviour and celebrating our staff members' calm, measured diligence in the face of this abuse.

Responding quickly, the Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive held discussions with the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council. The consensus decision following this meeting was an immediate pause in rejections to protect our staff and reduce the temperature of the situation. This was the correct decision.

Following this decision, line managers have been in close contact with their teams, signposting support and intervening where necessary. Although we proactively train our staff in conflict management and well-being, we recognise that the ferocity of some of this abuse by a minority of our residents has taken a toll.

The decision to reject bins was necessary, in line Environment Protection Act 1990, which empowers disposal authorities to direct collection authorities and residents to separate and sort waste to meet legislative requirements.

We communicated this change extensively through written notices, online platforms, and educational materials distributed to every resident. In the run-up to the rejection cycle, residents received further guidance in the form of educational tags placed on their silver bins to identify inappropriate waste placed in them. Our waste crews received thorough training on acceptable contamination levels, and senior officers from both SKDC and Lincolnshire County Council, as well as cabinet member Cllr Ellis, accompanied crews on Monday and Tuesday to explain rejection decisions. Levels of acceptable contamination are set in line with statutory guidance from LCC.

This administration did not operate a zero-tolerance policy. Our waste is routinely sampled at transfer stations and the recycling centre. These samples revealed a contamination rate of 24% from the bins collected on Monday and Tuesday.

Not only is it inappropriate for elected Members to interfere with day-to-day operational matters, but the facts do not support such assertions.

Within 48 hours of pausing the rejection process, this Administration organised mop-up collections to remove contaminated waste. The final collections finished on Tuesday, and I would like to express my gratitude to the entire waste team for their tireless work in completing these collections.

Further routine sampling revealed that over 53% of the waste in these mop-up collections was unrecyclable, contaminating a significant portion of the remaining recyclable waste. Contaminants included items such as clothes, nappies, and food waste, which have never been recyclable, as well as soft plastics and paper/card, clearly outlined as inappropriate for recycling in our communications.

We understand that change is never easy, and while most of our residents have adapted admirably, we recognise the need to rebuild trust with those struggling with the new system.

In the coming weeks, not only have we agreed a slow-down in the rollout with Lincolnshire County Council, we are also collaborating with LCC officers to enhance data records and provide additional support for contaminant identification. Resources, both physical and online, will be updated and enhanced. Despite significant waste crew training, we are aware of many allegations that waste operatives have rejected bins based on very minor contamination.

While the tested contamination rates provide evidence that this was not widespread or routine, we have asked LCC to give further training to waste operatives to improve the consistency of rejections when they start again.

Furthermore, we will be instituting spot checks from officers accompanying the rounds on rejections to raise consistency and provide accountability for our staff.

We encourage residents to contact their ward members or the recycling email address for concerns or questions. Residents can book a home visit to assess their waste situation if they are struggling. Vulnerable and disabled residents may be entitled to assisted collections based on their circumstances. Equally, I have reflected carefully on my role in these issues.

I recognise that residents would have benefitted from us tightening the rules on silver bin rejections over several months before the delivery of the purple-lidded bin. This would have eased February’s transition and I was remiss not to implement this.

This is a good policy that has been worked on following the best advice of officers from SKDC and LCC.

The recycling initiative is well-conceived and well-funded. As active members of the Lincolnshire Waste Partnership, we were obliged to participate in this scheme, but we also welcomed the change in policy as it aligns with our obligations and commitments, as well as our ambitions to improve our district.

In closing, I urge all council members to assist in disseminating information and supporting our residents through this transition, and I thank you all for your feedback, comments, and challenges over the past week. We have seen the best of democracy in action.

Was this page useful?

A-Z of Services

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z