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South Hams District Council and its contractor FCC Environment have made the reluctant decision to keep the suspension of all garden waste collections in place and say residents will be notified when they can start using their brown bins again.
At a meeting of the South Hams Executive on Thursday 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.
A lack of drivers meant that in August, the Council and FCC Environment made the tough decision to prioritise vital collections of general waste, clinical waste, recycling and refuse collections at the expense of garden waste collections.
At the request of the Council, FCC Environment has taken several steps to try and alleviate the situation. On a local level they have increased pay to retain their current drivers and at a national level, have launched a campaign to try and recruit more drivers.
However, with the national picture not improving, the decision has been made to keep focusing resources on essential waste and recycling collections and continue the suspension of garden waste collection in the South Hams.
Cllr Keith Baldry, South Hams Executive Member for the Environment, said: "As a Council, we were hoping that the nationwide situation on drivers may have shown signs of improvement, but in reality the situation is not getting better. When we made the original decision to suspend garden waste collections, we were left little choice to do so - and we still have no choice now but to keep the suspension in place.
"We realise that it is frustrating for our residents, but we must do all we can to keep the collections of general waste, clinical waste and recycling in place as best we can. We're sorry to everyone for the inconvenience and hope you understand that this situation is one playing out across the country, not just here in the South Hams.
"We will let you know when you can start using your brown bins again, and there is some advice below on what you can do with your garden waste until then."
According to Government figures, the driver shortage is reported to have increased over the last five years from 45,000 drivers in 2016 to 76,000 today. A recent Road Haulage Association (RHA) survey put the estimated shortfall at more than 100,000, with the warning that it will take 18 months to train enough drivers to address the problem, even if there are enough candidates to take the roles.
Commenting, FCC Environment Operations Director Steve Longdon said: "All our staff have worked tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to maintain our services and ensure household waste continued to be collected but, as we return to normality, the sector is facing new challenges.
"LGV 1 and 2 drivers are essential for the waste and recycling sector, and we are committed to doing everything we can to fill our driver vacancies to continue to play our part in protecting public health and the environment, as well as the UK's green economic recovery."
FCC Environment was one of the signatories on an open letter that the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has sent to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel.
In the letter which represents local authority waste companies and recycling businesses, the ESA says that the shortage of drivers could hinder the sector's ability to deliver upon the government's resource-efficiency and environmental ambitions in the "longer term". The letter goes on to say that immediate relief is "urgently" needed for "this acute situation".
FCC Environment is currently running a campaign to attract more trained LGV 1 and 2 drivers to support domestic waste collection crews and household waste recycling in South Hams. If you are interested in joining the team follow the link below to find out more:
The Council and FCC Environment will continue to review the situation, as the national driver shortage crisis develops. In the meantime, residents are being asked not to put garden waste in the grey wheelie / residual waste bin.
The Council is offering advice on what residents can do with their garden waste: