Agenda item

Public Open Forum.

To share your feedback about the Future Provision of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) report or the Garden Waste Service:


·         You can:

o   upload a written response (max 500 words), or

o   record a video  or audio clip of you sharing your views (maximum of 4 minutes).


You can submit your representations to us online at the following link:,LANG:AF982C24C2572B3224E054315401AAED8CC0A7A0,EN&P_LANG=en

If submissions exceeds one hour in total, representations will be shared by theme (not played in total) but all submissions will be made available to the committee.


The deadline for public submissions is Wednesday 23rd September at 5pm. Full details on the public speaking process are available on page 4 of the agenda pack.



Following the video presentation of responses from Usk residents, Usk Town Council member Alison Ivin delivered a response to the report’s recommendation to close Usk’s HWRC as follows:

“There is a lot to absorb in the report. Due to the time limit, I will focus on a few key points. First, the cost saving in closing Usk is £40k – we don’t accept that as a reason for closure. Usk and its surroundings have close to 19,000 dwellings; at an average council tax of £2000 for a three bedroom property, then that figure is paid for by council tax payments on just 20 dwellings. The cost of essential works is £30k; again, that can be carried by 15 dwellings.

One point that has been made is that the performance of Usk and Mitchel Troy is dragging down the recycling proportions, and therefore affecting performance against Welsh Assembly targets. That’s not the case this year, as the pandemic has actually improved recycling rates. 2021 is quoted as achieving the highest recycling rate in Monmouthshire, of 74% – therefore, if Usk were left open and given the opportunity to be supported as other centres have (with education, booking systems, etc.), we do have the time to make an improvement. The procurement process is due to end in September 2021; it doesn’t need to be delayed as procurement can be requested with two alternate scenarios. We don’t need to make the decision to close Usk now.

There are some cost figures in the report, in terms of comparison with Mitchel Troy and Usk, that I cannot follow but, in any event, these are historic figures. We are now in a new time that we never expected to be in, with the pandemic, that has brought about changes that not only affect recycling figures for the county but also for Usk. We want the opportunity in Usk to show the benefit to recycling figures made from those behavioural changes that have been imposed and consolidated within pandemic time.

Work will be needed, it is said, to improve Usk, at a cost of around £30k, but large amounts have already been spent on works over the last few years to safeguard the future of the facility – we don’t want that money thrown away. It was an investment; there are always investments to be made to maintain a service. To contrast with this, we are quoted over £1.5m to upgrade Mitchel Troy. One comment has been made that Usk can’t reopen because of social distancing; there are two operatives on site. We’ve been told it isn’t suitable for disabled people, but those operatives could help people. All of that can be managed with social distancing in the same way that we’re managing walking down streets. There is a theme that we object to, that Usk is the poorest performing HWRC in the county, and that Usk will not improve. We challenge this.

One of the figures on Table 1, page 4, shows Usk performing at a Recycling vs. Residual waste rate of 47.92%, the closest otherwise being Mitchel Troy. These are the figures for 2018/19. It notes the obvious challenge that smaller centres do not recycle the complete range offered in the larger facilities. We have been given a list of the items recycled elsewhere: there are bulk items, white goods, rubble. Statistics only have value if one is comparing like for like – Usk figures should only be compared with other sites with those additional recycling items removed from the calculation. Otherwise, the zero measurement given for Usk is interpreted as Usk’s failure to recycle it, rather than it having no opportunity to do so. In other words, rubble and plasterboard etc. being recyclable at other sites is tipping the scales against Usk. It should not be the case that the lack of a facility is used to demonstrate poor performance. The Eunomia report does give measurements to each head, and excluding just rubble and plasterboard brings Mitchel Troy to a 48.52% recycling residual, which is the same as Usk, and reduces recycle percentages at the two larger tips between 8 and 10% – so a closer comparison with Usk.

Food waste is seen as high here at Usk but it has been accepted that that was based on infrequent sampling, and might not be representative. The sample was too small and could have been provided by commercial use, rather than residents. Usk has great recycling overall, with facilities at the Hub and Fire Station that are in use but not included in the count. We have a new high street shop for zero waste and refillables. Good behaviours throughout the town impact negatively on recycling tonnages but they are the right thing to do. That should not put us at a disadvantage of comparison proportions on residual waste.

It is said that figures have improved startlingly across the county because of the Covid lockdown, necessitating improved kerbside figures and the benefit of booking systems. But an assumption has been made that Usk would not similarly benefit if reopened – we do not understand that. Time and time again statements are made that Usk will not improve, that it will be the lowest performing recycling centre in Wales – it is stated as a fact, but it is only an opinion. There are successes specified in the rest of the report attributable to re-educating or changed behaviours during Covid, improvements made to kerbside recycling because of the booking system, and these successes have been denied to Usk, as it has not been allowed to reopen. It is not far different from the other three sites. Looking at the table, based on the consumer survey, the residual items and waste that could have been collected kerbside all account for broadly 65% of the total across all four sites. Usk can improve, as others have.

It is then said that Usk will not improve enough; again, we challenge this. The officer’s recent experience is that improvements are made with education and the booking system, and we have a motivated team now with our SURF group to effect change. Indeed, we have an obligation to future generations to effect change. Officers and Members of MCC have confirmed to Usk Town Council that Covid will not be used as a device to close the recycling facility in Usk, yet by not allowing the facility to reopen, that is what is happening. Closure has been held in abeyance for further consultation on the wider HWRC provision, and for additional compositional analysis of waste streams. That has not happened, due to Covid and the lockdown closure of Usk continuing.

The countywide consultation was not what Town Council members expected following meetings with MCC. What was expected was an Usk-based survey. The consultation that did happen had only 959 responses, running mid-March to mid-April, when everywhere was reeling with the effect of lockdown and pandemic. Now that we have mobilised with the Town Council and SURF group, we could get a better, more targeted responses, and use that opportunity to educate people as to what can be recycled, and what improvements the use of kerbside will make. 75% of people that responded did not want closures. Consultation gave a perception only, but that perception was similar across all four recycling centres: that 65% of waste on all of the sites encompassed material that could be collected at kerbside. Usk was no worse. A far larger number responded to our petition and contact with SURF. Please do not ignore those residents. Close to 2000 people responded to the petition. There are over 540 personal letters supporting retaining the facility. More are arriving. All in a very short timescale.

There is a feeling demonstrated in Christine Wilkinson’s report that Usk is a repeated target for removal of services. Let us make a case together for retention of that facility. The report was ambiguous on this point but let me be clear that the overwhelming response from the town and surroundings is that this facility should remain. The SURF action group is absolutely committed to saving the facility. MCC has the time because of the Covid increase in recycling, and because of the delay in procurement, to allow the time for SURF and the Town Council to carry out targeted consultation, and make improvements. We ask that MCC gives Usk the deferral as previously agreed to allow time outside lockdown for a proper base consultation, and with the facility open – otherwise, Covid has deprived us of the chance to show change. MCC has the ability to retain a much-valued facility in the heartland of Monmouthshire, which promotes recycling at a level where everybody can appreciate and understand where daily actions matter and make a difference. Yet, MCC is minded to close it without giving us the same opportunities as elsewhere in the county, and to allow for the complete change in life that Covid has brought on us to work through to advantage. Those positive behavioural changes experienced elsewhere could help here, too.

The report notes that there has been a massive reduction in visitors, with the booking system now in place, compared to 2019, with increased recycling at the kerbside. There is nothing to say that this wouldn’t also be the case in Usk. The report has picked on a negative but I would like to spin it to positive: we dispute that people will get frustrated from not being able to recycle everything in Usk; it is just a case of knowing what is permitted. If the system is clear, requiring bookings, then learned behaviour will take over, so that people will know where to take their waste. That Usk does not recycle rubble and white goods is not a reason for all of the other recycling facilities to be taken away. A clear message that Usk does not recycle these items, and booking will be required in another centre, is all that’s required to minimise disruption.

Mention is made of 18 parking spaces removed from the car park because of the new access arrangements – that figure is disputed by the Town Council, as alternative spaces were then made available. Nothing is said of the impact on the high street from another facility being removed. Usk has been a hub town for the rural areas around, time and again facilities are being eroded from the town that act as a draw to visits to the town, and ripple out to the benefit of higher footfall on the street. Once these facilities have gone, the report outlines how difficult it will be to recreate them, with planning and licences, etc. MCC deserves to retain this important service, and residents deserve the chance to show that lasting changes can be made here in Usk, for the benefit of us all.

The report sees ease-of-use and frequent visits as bad. But neither are bad, and both are easily controlled, if problematic, through the new booking system. Unchallenged use is seen as a bad thing; broadly, we agree. The officer will have heard that the overwhelming experience in Usk is that permits are never requested, nor the use of the residual skip queried or challenged. The report quotes statistics that cross-border waste was a problem until resident permits were introduced. If there’s no inspection of permits then there are no controls on cross-border waste in Usk. Newport County is only fifteen minutes away, which is less than Usk residents would be required to travel if closure occurs. Waste Tourism is just as easy in Usk as it is in Abergavenny.

Examples are drawn that other local authorities have only one or two facilities across the county, but those quoted are built-up areas such as Cardiff. Monmouthshire is a rural county. Different considerations apply to rural counties if we are to minimise the impact of unnecessary journeys on our carbon footprint. Let us consider smaller, more local, recycling centres being a success, rather than conforming to the minimum statutory requirement, or what is provided in a city or smaller geographical area. There is a place for local recycling, and please do not forget that Usk is a town with an older population – not everyone has a car. Flytipping is a concern. It is expensive to clear. None of us knows in the post-Covid period what the loss of a facility will do to flytipping.

What we want to do is emphasise that kerbside collection is the most environmentally friendly way to manage household recycling and waste, and reinforce MCC’s comment that not using kerbside collection for black bag and residual waste is not acceptable. We want to emphasise that this is a valid recycling facility, not a dump, and that disposal of black bags with mixed waste undermines the efforts of the vast majority that recycles effectively. We need to make people aware of Welsh Government penalties – nobody wants MCC to pay those. We note that black bag sorting is seen as desirable – we’d like to work together to see how we can achieve this at Usk, to capture additional recyclate. What we would like the council to do is check permits – to stop cross-border use – stop commercial waste, support us with education and booking systems, and then the same as everybody else: review cost-saving measures such as shorter hours through Winter and on weekends, allow the savings from the reduced days we already have to work through to have an impact on cost. Finally, to not let Covid be the reason we are closed, because doing nothing was the option. Work with us to reopen, and give us time to make a change.

Closure now, after a period of lockdown, doesn’t give us the period of deferral that was promised, and it is entirely possible – indeed, probable – that the benefits and positive behaviour change seen in the rest of the county will also apply to Usk. Strong turnaround in recycling across the county due to a strong campaign of recycling messages and Covid closures should be allowed to benefit us. Please work with us in the same way that you are working with other facilities to improve the recycling rates. Please recommend that Usk be reopened so that we can work together and have that period of deferral and consultation. And please support this town, which is at the centre of Monmouthshire.”