West Devon residents requested 5,000 replacement plastic recycling boxes last year – and delivering them is a full time job for one person, writes Alison Stephenson.

The borough council’s overview and scrutiny committee heard these facts from its waste and recycling contractors FCC.

Cllr Jane Elliot (Green, Chagford) said the number of replacement boxes  seemed a lot given that the number of households in West Devon isn’t particularly high.

The borough is home to 57,000 people but not many households. So where are all those big plastic boxes going?

Councillors were told they get damaged in the wind and blown into the road.

Dale Cropper, principal waste specialist at the council, said it was a high number.

But the committee heard that it is not an unusual figure across the country.

Mr Cropper said officers are identifying if there are large requests for new containers in certain areas; for example if people have limited storage space.

Some residents want to build communal storage areas where the boxes could be kept safe, he said.

Deputy chief executive Steve Mullineaux said different authorities have different ways of doing things: Teignbridge doesn’t provide lids and in East Devon the council charges for extra or replacement containers.

He said West Devon would be looking at ways to reduce the cost whilst still encouraging recycling.

Cllr Terry Southcott (Con, Bridestowe) said lids need to be better quality because they didn’t survive for long.

“They are easily damaged and often cracked when they come back from being unloaded. You cannot keep the water out of those boxes either.”

Councillors were told that cardboard is of no use wet.

West Devon’s recycling rate was 54 per cent in 2022/23. Devon’s target is 65 per cent by 2035.

Residual waste hasn’t fallen much in the past year; from 321kg per household in 2021/22 to 313kg in 2022/23. But the Devon-wide target is 400kg by 2030, so the council is ahead of that.

West Devon mayor and lead member for the natural environment Lynn Daniel (Green, South Tawton) said the council should be proud of the numbers.