According to Rory Stewart, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEFRA, it is absurd that Britain currently has so many different recycling systems. Rory Stewart MP, who is responsible for resource management in England, said that there are more than 300 different collection arrangements around the country. He added that a single national model would save money, end confusion, and boost recycling figures. The majority of the UK’s recycling is the responsibility of the local authorities, who are in charge of the collection of municipal waste and operating contracts such as kerbside collection schemes. However, commercial and industrial waste is chiefly processed by private companies. These local authorities have no national model to follow and so they’ve implemented their own strategies with the only guidance being compliance with recycling targets set by European law. Each of these local authorities’ waste strategies differ in some way, meaning there are over 300 different collection arrangements around the country.
Rory Stewart MP has said that “a single, harmonised system” could bring huge savings and boost recycling rates. While he did not specify what single system there should be, he praised councils that made households separate their recycling waste into different materials. Speaking at the Environment Industries Commission annual conference in London last week, Stewart said:
“If we co-mingle the waste, putting the glass, paper and card together in the same box, it can be a real problem, even with modern methods, to extract the glass as it goes through the system.
We should be able to get much more value out of the paper or the glass, which can go back to the council and the rate payer, if we keep the waste separate.”
Rory Stewart is currently working with waste and recycling charity Wrap to try to promote greater consistency in collection systems in England, which he has said will “eventually mean everyone across the country will be clear on what and how they can recycle”.
It is difficult to regulate the country’s current recycling statistics if each local authority is performing under its own rules. Under EU law the UK must recycle 50 per cent of its household waste by 2020. Although Wales is already recycling more than that level, England and Scotland are still struggling to hit their targets. In 2013, 43.5% of the United Kingdom’s municipal waste was recycled, composted or broken down by anaerobic digestion.
If you compare councils under closer inspection, you see that some collect waste co-mingled, and whilst some separate food waste, the majority don’t. Additionally, there are different sizes and colours of bin, different types of waste truck being used, alternative forms of recycling systems and other types of anaerobic digesters consuming waste. All of this adds up to a nationwide cost of around £3 billion pounds annually, a figure Mr Stewart believes can be reduced if a national model of recycling is adopted which is easily comprehended by the public and something to which the public will respond and relate to.
Rory Stewart stressed any reforms would be carried out on a voluntary basis in co-operation with local councils. “I’ve got to convince councils of this,” he said. “But if we can do it we can save the councils money, we can save rate payers money, we drive up our recycling rates quite dramatically because there would be enormous economies of scale for the recycling industry in having a standardised system.”
Waste and recycling charity Wrap have recently published statistics showing that 34% of UK households have their landfill rubbish collected at least once a week, while the remainder have fortnightly collections. Despite this, some councils are trialling a move to monthly black bin collections as they seek to cut costs and drive up recycling rates.
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