A NEW $40 million kerbside recycling contract will begin in the Hunter next year, serving 127,000 households.
Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Cessnock and Singleton councils have joined to take part in the 10-year contract, which will save ratepayers millions of dollars.
The contract, awarded to Solo Waste, includes a change to the way residents dispose of recycled goods.
Presently, paper and cardboard are separated by a divider from glass and plastic.
Bin dividers would be removed over the next seven months, so residents would not have to separate recyclable garbage.
A company named Hunter Resource Recovery, which the four councils own and operate, manages the contract.
Hunter Resource Recovery manager Roger Lewis said existing bins would be used for the new contract.
Mr Lewis said the contract would have cost twice as much if new bins were bought.
‘‘There’s plenty of life left in the existing bins,’’ Mr Lewis said.
He said the councils were ‘‘blown away by how much more affordable the service is compared to what we’re currently paying’’.
The four councils would share in savings of $3.8 million a year over a decade, compared with the existing contract.
‘‘The savings will be passed on to ratepayers,’’ he said.
About 20 per cent of general waste in the Hunter was garbage that could have been recycled, he said.
He said a lack of capacity in recycling bins was part of that problem, along with ‘‘a degree of public apathy’’.
Removal of bin dividers was estimated to increase the capacity of each recycling bin by 15 per cent.
The contract included a new $10 million plant at Gateshead to process the recycled waste, which would create seven jobs.
Mr Lewis said the plant would be built in time for the contract start date in July next year.
‘‘We would much prefer to sort the waste in our own backyard, rather than transfer semi-trailer loads of recyclables to Sydney,’’ he said.
It would mean fewer trucks on the road.
‘‘Local tradesmen will service, repair and maintain the plant,’’ he said.
Mr Lewis said the councils sought and received approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
‘‘We had to make sure locking all the councils into one contract wasn’t anti-competitive,’’ he said.