BROWN bin collections could be moved to a three-weekly service as part of a drive to cut costs and increase recycling.

St Helens Council’s cabinet will decide whether to proceed with the proposals on Wednesday evening.

If approved, the pilot – which is part of a wider revamp of waste services – will begin covering two routes in September with a view to being rolled out in September 2019.

The three weekly-bin collections are estimated to save the authority £1.4 million over seven years, in addition to the savings made following the introduction of the garden waste charge last June.

A report that will go before cabinet says the service faces ‘significant challenges’ to increase recycling performance while also delivering ‘efficiency savings’.

“The proposed actions will improve the council’s recycling rate,” the report says.

“It ensures it is fully resourced for the future and is fit for purpose, delivering improved customer service, alongside value for money.”

St Helens had the best recycling rate (38.9 per cent) throughout Merseyside in 2016-17.

The report estimates that this figure could realistically rise to 45 per cent by 2020, although this still falls short of the national and local 50 per cent recycling target.

The council is also weary of being penalised by central government – as a result of EU fines – if it does not make gains in its recycling rate.

The report says: “Although there is now uncertainty regarding the future expectation on local authorities to meet this target after Brexit, the council still needs to ensure it can demonstrate it is committed to maximising recycling.

“The risk still exists that EU fines for the UK government will be passed down to Local Authorities through the Localism Act of 2011, if the UK’s 50 per cent target is not met, (it has previously been identified that UK rate is at 44 per cent so the UK will miss the target).

“The Merseyside Waste composition study in 2015-16, found that up to 52 per cent of the residual waste stream (brown bin) in St Helens was recyclable with food accounting for almost a third of brown bin waste.

“Therefore, there is still plenty of scope to increase recycling rates by diverting more recyclable waste from the brown bin.”

The service revamp will also see workforce changes, including flexible working and rotation of rounds intended to reduce total working time.

In addition, £3.52 million will be used to purchase new collection vehicles and containers, which will be taken from the Waste Management fund. New in-cab technology will also be installed.