MORE households in Somerset will be able to recycle flexible plastics at the kerbside as a trial is extended later in the year.

Flexible plastics – which also includes bread bags, cheese wrappers and salad bags – are currently some of the hardest items to recycle, despite taking up a sizeable chunk of household waste.

The government has been running a pilot scheme since April 2022 with three local authorities (including two in Gloucestershire), with flexible plastics being collected at the kerbside for processing and recycling.

Somerset began a small-scale trial of collecting flexible plastics in May 2023, focussed on 3,600 households in the north and north-eastern parts of Frome.

Following positive results, this trial will be extended to a further 20,000 properties in the eastern half of the county by the late-spring or early-summer of this year.

Defra had previously indicated that it wishes for all local authorities to collect flexible plastics at the kerbside by March 2027.

The extension of the trial was confirmed when the council’s climate and plate scrutiny committee convened in Taunton on January 17.

Environmental officer Mike Cowdell said that the initial trial in Frome had “yielded impressive results”, with 65 per cent of the selected households participating and “very low contamination rates”, making it easier for the materials to be recycled.

He said the average household provided around 225g of these materials each week – meaning around half a metric tonne of flexible plastic was collected every cycle (i.e. every week).

He added in his written report: “The trial has been popular in Somerset with participation rates exceeding project objectives.

“The restrictions placed on refuse bin capacity through three-weekly collections also make this an attractive service to resident,s as well as
allowing them to further participate in recycling as much as they can.

“There have been no issues incorporating this material into the existing waste
collection infrastructure, providing a cost effective mechanism to introduce a new stream of waste recycling materials into our collection regime.”

Due to the limitations of the existing Somerset waste depots, the extension of the trial is likely to be restricted to properties serviced by the Evercreech depot near Shepton Mallet, which processes recycling from the former Mendip and South Somerset districts.

Councillor Martin Dimery, who chaired the meeting, waxed lyrical about how well the initial phase of the trial had worked within parts of his Frome West division.

He said: “It’s very clever and assertive of you to have chosen Frome to begin this trial, knowing that we’re all very conscientious Green councillors there.

“The bags are marked so you know what you’re putting in there – it’s quite clear what you have to do. But it does rely on conscientious approaches by the householders, because you’re not just chucking stuff in the bin.

“Provided you can get that mentality into people, I don’t see why this shouldn’t be a success. I think it’s been a good scheme so far.”

The homes involved in the extension of the trial will receive written notice of the new materials being collected in the coming months.