The privately run waste collection service in South Hams has been so stretched this year it was forced to seek help from neighbouring Teignbridge council’s in-house team to carry out its basic duties.

Waste services in South Hams were outsourced to a private contractor, FCC Environment, in April 2019 but have been beset by problems from the start, including missed collections and some vehicles being too large for some areas. The situation has been further complicated by the national shortage of HGV drivers.

In June this year FCC apologised to residents for its failures, explaining it faced problems due to higher than anticipated volumes of materials. It claimed the system was designed on the basis of its vehicles filling up and being emptied once each working day.

It added that the increased volumes had resulted in the recycling depot filling up, making the unloading of collection vehicles and the onward operations “much more complex.”

But at the beginning of the summer, as FCC struggled to cope, South Hams asked Teignbridge to lend a hand.

Cllr Keith Baldry (Lib Dem, Newton & Yealmpton), executive member for waste and recycling, said: “South Hams District Council did ask Teignbridge District Council for help with recycling collections for a weekend in June.

“Drivers, crews and vehicles were loaned by Teignbridge District Council to help with the collections.”

Teignbridge mobilised support for South Hams quickly through their in-house waste collection teams.

Teignbridge’s deputy council leader and executive member for recycling, household waste and environmental health Alistair Dewhirst (Lib Dem – Ipplepen) said they were proud to help.

“We all work together on the Devon Authority Strategic Waste Committee, and it’s in all our interests that we all end up with good recycling,” he said.

“Teignbridge Council has an in-house waste service. And we have a team who have been within the council for many, many years.

“And that goes right through from our senior managers all the way through to our hardworking people actually on the streets doing the recycling, doing the rubbish collections.

“I think it’s an absolute tribute to our amazing team, and I’m really delighted that they are a Teignbridge in-house team. We do all our own work. We do our own engineering work on our trucks to keep them in the best possible manner. And in my book that’s definitely been working.”

When waste services in South Hams passed to FCC it was expected they would mirror the service provided by the same company under a contract with West Devon Borough Council for more than 10 years. However, FCC has struggled to meet commitments on recycling and waste management.

In March this year the company made changes across South Hams in a bid to improve recycling rates. But on 16 August residents were told they would need to dispose of all their own garden waste after FCC Environment announced it was stopping collections.

The council said it reluctantly agreed to the request by FCC to halt garden waste collections, adding that many other councils around the country have had to do the same in recent weeks as the national shortage of LGV and HGV drivers continues.

Neither Teignbridge nor South Hams councils have said whether there were extra costs involved in using a neighbouring authority’s waste collection team.