Skip to main content

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.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't

Noise pollution puts nature at risk

 "I just want a bit of peace and quiet!" Let's get away from all the hustle and bustle; the sound of endless traffic on the roads, of the trains on the railway, and the planes in the sky; the incessant drone; the noise. We live in a world of man-made noise; screeching, bellowing, on-and-on in an unmelodious cacophony.  This constant background noise has now become a significant health hazard.   With average background levels of 60 decibels, those who live in cities are often exposed to noise over 85 decibels, enough to cause significant hearing loss over time.  It causes stress, high blood pressure, headache and loss of sleep and poor health and well-being.   In nature, noise has content and significance.  From the roar of the lion, the laughing of a hyena,  communication is essential for life; as the warning of danger, for bonding as a group or a pair, finding a mate, or for establishing a position in a hierarchy - chattering works.  Staying in touch is vital to working

Therapeutic animal stress

Interacting with animals is known to be therapeutic,  particularly in reducing stress.  But do we consider sufficiently the effects this may have on the animals involved?   We might assume that because it is calming for us, then it must be so for the therapeutic animals, but is this so?  New research suggests that it isn't always without stress for the animals involved.  Positive human-animal interaction relates to changes in physiological variables both in humans and other animals, including a reduction of subjective psychological stress (fear, anxiety) and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain.  It also reduces the 'stress' hormone, cortisol. Indeed, these biological responses have measurable clinical benefits.  Oxytocin has long been implicated in maternal bonding, sexual behaviour and social affiliation behaviours and in promoting a sense of well-being .  So far, so good.  We humans often turn to animals for stress relief, companionship, and even therapy.  We kno