MORE than £5.5 million is to be spent on electric and diesel bin lorries to replace 22 Somerset recycling trucks which were approaching the end of their working life.

The existing vehicles pre-date a Recycle More initiative by Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) which involves collecting far more materials and would have to be replaced by April, 2024.

Councillors who approved the proposals also asked SWP to consider converting more of its existing trucks to electric vehicles in the years to come.

SWP has 108 recycling trucks and 43 refuse trucks at its disposal, ranging from standard vehicles to more specialist ones for narrow or steep streets.

Councillors voted to replace 140 of them in 2019 ahead of the new Recycle More contract with the new vehicles expected to last until 2030.

Of the remaining trucks, 23 were brought into service in 2016 and were not expected to be replaced until April, 2024.

However, a decision was needed now in the light of a ‘global semi-conductor shortage and the aftermath of Covid’, which has affected how quickly new vehicles were being produced.

One had already been converted into an electric vehicle and was performing well on a limited number of routes.

Some of the remaining 22 vehicles - of which the majority were refuse trucks of various sizes and weights - were refurbished in early 2021 but were now regularly experiencing mechanical issues, resulting in missed collections.

Rather than employ a one-size-fits-all replacement strategy, SWP produced a series of solutions to the problem, identifying how different fuels could be used to reduce carbon emissions.

Under the proposals, 10 trucks will be replaced with electric vehicles, with five operating from the Evercreech depot near Shepton Mallet, four from the Bridgwater or Taunton depot, and one from the Lufton depot in Yeovil, at a cost of £4.29 million.

A further eight of the vehicles will be replaced like-for-like with diesel trucks at a combined cost of £1.116 million, athough they may run on vegetable oil rather than conventional diesel.

The other four will be refurbished and redirected to school and communal collections, at a predicted cost of £160,000, bringing the total bill to £5.566 million.

SWP was asked how viable it would be to switch the entire waste collection fleet to electric over the coming years.

Managing director Mickey Green said: "They cost more than diesel up front.

“We believe the cost will come down over time as the market changes.

“There is a greater cost premium to hydrogen vehicles and we have not got the money to risk getting a hydrogen vehicle that just sits in the depot.”