RECYCLING rates have shot up in Carmarthenshire after a shake-up of the county’s waste collection service.

Just under 73% of household waste was recycled or composted in April, May and June this year, over 8% more than the same period last year. Councils in Wales are expected to reach a 70% target by 2025, and then keep recyclying more.

The increase follows the introduction of a new kerbside system offering more blue bag recycling – such as glass bottles and jars for the first time – and a three-weekly rather than fortnightly collection of black bags.

An expected but still striking statistic was that 3,058 tonnes of black bag waste were collected compared to 4,495 tonnes in the same period last year – a 32% drop.

A council scrutiny committee was told that the new service has required 23 additional refuse vehicles, including three electric ones, and extra staff. A committee report said six wardens have been employed to undertake encourage compliance through “education and enforcement”.

Cllr Edward Thomas, cabinet member for transport, waste and infrastructure services, said: “The initial phase has positively impacted recycling targets.”

More changes are planned, including householders being asked to separate recyclable materials before they’re put out for collection, and a greater uptake of electric refuse vehicles. The latter proposal could result in the centralisation of the county’s waste depots at the main one at Nantycaws, near Carmarthen. Part of the reason is that there is space at Nantycaws to develop renewable energy production, which could help charge the lorries.

The committee was told that the council has secured up to £15.5m for its plans, although the authority would need to contribute 38% of the overall cost of the changes.

Chairman, Cllr Kevin Madge, said trade unions would need to be consulted, and pointed out that staff at the current waste depots spent money where they worked, benefiting the local economy.

Cllr Tina Higgins asked if the existing depots at Cillefwr, Glanamman and Trostre would close. Cllr Thomas said his understanding was that all staff would be located at Nantycaws, but added: “It’s still very early days.”

Geinor Lewis, the council’s waste strategy and policy manager, said the depots which could be considered for closure were also used by other council departments. “We are looking at it in its totality,” she said.