Rescue plan in reserve for threatened Llangadog recycling centre
Friday September 30 is decision day for Llangadog’s Household Waste Recycling Centre. If there’s no deal, no rescue plan on the table by then, it will close. Read about it in the Carmarthenshire Herald, September 23, pages 1 and 3
Rumours of the possible end-of-September closure of Llangadog’s household waste recycling centre have alarmed residents in north Carmarthenshire, for whom the centre is an important amenity.
The recycling centre serves some 20,000 people, who would face long journeys to alternative sites. The nearest recycling site to Llangadog is more than a dozen miles to the south-west at Wernddu near Ammanford.
The Llangadog centre is operated by All Waste Services Ltd, a private company headed by Mr Hefin Roberts.
Carmarthenshire County Council has a household waste recycling agreement with All Waste Services. Back in 2014, when the contract was up for renewal, the then Director of Technical Services, Richard Workman, said a new contract at the prevailing rate of payment would be unaffordable. This was despite the fact that Llangadog’s recycling rate of 80%-85% was way above the county average of around 55%, and significantly above the EU target of 50% by 2020, and even above Wales’s target of 70% by 2025. The recycling centre also provided about 10 local jobs.
Public pressure, and intervention from Llangadog’s county councillor Andrew James, saved the day. A new deal was agreed, albeit on tougher terms. The centre no longer accepted certain types of waste, like paint and mattresses, and cut weekend opening to three hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings. But that has not been enough to ensure the centre’s future.
Hefin Roberts spoke to The Herald yesterday (Sep 22). He said that negotiations with the county council were going well and he was hopeful an agreement could be reached. “I told the council that we had to have a new agreement in place by September 30,” he said, “or we would not be able to continue”. During the past two years, he has been personally subsidising the recycling centre, he said.
“We have to make sure it is a sustainable business,” he said. “Over the last couple of years it has been increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Back in 2013-14 our budget was cut in half. We streamlined, we had to reduce our staff. At the same time, prices for recycled commodities fell away, mainly because China stopped buying them. It now costs us to dispose of many commodities. For flat glass, for example, we have to pay a ‘gate fee’ to deliver to buyers, and if there is any contamination, we can be charged £100 a tonne on top.
“Waste wood can cost £65 a tonne to get rid of – at the moment nobody really wants it. As for scrap metal, we used to receive £120 to £130 a tonne, but that has gone down to £5 a tonne, and we have to pay a haulage charge, which means we earn nothing.
Mr Roberts pointed out that stockpiling commodities in the hope that prices might improve was not an option because of fire risk as well as lack of space.
At Carmarthenshire County Council, spokesperson Debbie Williams said the council is aware of the fears that the recycling centre might close.
“The Authority are in discussion with All Waste Services and will provide further information in due course”, she said.
Llanwrda activist launches rescue plan
Maria Carroll, of the Old Post Office shop in Llanwrda, and the Labour candidate in yesterday’s (September 22) Cilycwm by-election, told The Herald she has brought together a team, including local business people, to look at a rescue plan “if we cannot get the council to act”.
The recycling centre “has been running without a contract since 2014, under interim arrangements that were not brought before the full council,” said Maria. Without the security of a properly negotiated contract, the family operating the centre has borne the costs of maintaining the service, she explained.
A petition to keep the centre open can be signed in local shops, including the Old Post Office shop. The petition is also online at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/572/697/743/demand-our-community-recycling-centre-serving-is-saved/
Waste recycling industry in recession
Since the deal to keep the Llangadog centre open in 2014, the waste business has suffered a recession. As Hefin Roberts explained, this means that operators like AWS receive less income from selling the commodities they recycle, indeed often make a loss. According to the Financial Times on August 23, “the fall in prices for recycled goods has put pressure on every part of the waste management industry”. The report, by Gill Plimmer, also said that the Kier Group, a construction and environmental services company in the FTSE 250 index, had announced that it would exit recycling after announcing in July that it expected to make a £33 million loss on the business in its final year of trading.
All Waste Services does not have to publish full accounts because it is a small company, but balance sheets at Companies House show a decline in the value of the business since 2011. Shareholders’ funds were then £822,267, but they fell in every following year, and the latest balance sheet, for the year to September 30 2015, states shareholders’ funds as £590,647, a fall of 28% in four years, and indicative of tough times in the industry.