Friday, 7 October 2016

England needs a coherent national approach to waste

England has more than 300 different recycling systems. Some councils collect waste commingled - some separate food waste, and about another 260 do not. Recycling plastic differs across the country. This is why plastic packaging is often labelled 'check kerbside'.

There are different sizes and colours of bin, different types of truck, different types of recycling system and different types of anaerobic digesters consuming waste. Waste recycling is a post-code lottery.

The harmful effects of waste is a national problem. It requires a national solution. Cash-starved local authorities struggle to meet needs.

It is estimated that in London alone £19 million a year could be saved with a standard recycling system. The savings across the country could be immense.

We spend more than £3 billion a year simply collecting waste.

A single, harmonised system across the country, could drive up recycling rates.

WRAP recycling scheme data suggests that 97 per cent of English households are served by a recycling collection for plastic bottles.  However, the proportion of households served by mixed plastic collections (i.e. including non‐bottle rigid plastic packaging, such as pots, tubs and trays) is significantly lower, at just 57 per cent.

Plastic film collections do not exist on any notable scale.  

The absence of collections of non‐bottle plastics is likely to be a significant factor in the low recycling rate for this material.

But still my concern is with the amount of non-recyclable plastic being used in our supermarkets.

Yesterday when shopping I decided to count the number of items wrapped in non-recyclable plastic - apples, onions, carrots, potatoes, plums, red peppers, bananas, courgettes....on and on. Almost every item I picked up was wrapped in non-recyclable plastic. Some items had no information at all. This is from a leading supermarket claiming to have a strategy for reducing the environmental impact of packaging.

Just 15% of household plastic is recycle. Tonnes of the stuff ends up in landfill. There is no point blaming the consumer if the plastic is non-recyclable. But councils were unable to recycle 338,000 tonnes of waste in 2014-15 because of contamination - up from about 184,000 tonnes in 2011-12.

The cost to local authorities of re-sorting so-called contaminated recycle bins is said to be the primary reason the vast majority of the waste is being rejected.

Councils say they are working to stop people putting the wrong items in bins. I have seen very little sign of such work. Our waste strategy is a shambles. 

We need a more coherent nationwide strategy.




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