Stalled recycling rates are blamed on cutbacks to council budgets
Sandy Martin, shadow minister for waste and recycling has told MP’s that recycling rates have been hindered due to council budget cutbacks.
In a parliamentary debate on plastics, Martin had the following to say: “After years of austerity, local government, which is responsible for waste and recycling, has been left underfunded and understaffed.”
He also went on the say that in the meantime, “our local authorities need the capital investment and revenue to maintain their recycling collections, let alone improve them”.
The debate which was initiated by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said: “It would help if we had a properly, clearly defined hierarchy of plastic products.
“Some are clearly necessary, highly desirable and beneficial, while others are utterly trivial, wasteful and costly to the environment. If that hierarchy was clearly established by scientific inquiry and promoted by the Government, that would be helpful to local authorities.”
Cable expressed his concerns and said the use of plastics must be reduced otherwise, exports banned from China and other Asian countries would end up in places even less equipped and prepared to cope with them.
He went on to ask the following: “Are we looking for cheap and nasty disposal in Africa or will it be stocked and dealt with here, and if so, how?”
“To deal with it involves incentives and support for the reprocessing industry—not just recycling, but reprocessing…That requires tax because, at the moment, it is unattractive to reprocess. It is much more profitable to export.”
According to Labour MP Rachael Maskell, who gave up using plastic for Lent this year, she found it more difficult than expected due to the abundance of plastic packaging: “As a consumer, I was given no choice but to walk out of the supermarket and rethink my life.”
In conclusion to the debate, environment minister Therese Coffey said it would not be wise to simply substitute plastic packaging with metal or paper since “emissions would be generated because heavier goods would be transported around the country, around the world, in fact”.
Coffey went on to say that plastics should be designed to be more reusable or recyclable and that the extended producers responsibility for packaging would work with the planned tax on non-recycled plastics “to improve recycling rates, and the revenue collected from these measures will enable investment in further action to address the issues surrounding single-use plastics, waste and litter”.
Guy Cherry, Managing Director at GPT said:
“I’m more inclined to believe that this falls squarely on the take-off requirement by, what were historically, vibrant end users. Recyclate quality has much improved over the last few years and this been enhanced by consumer awareness, however, shipping volumes have dropped pointing to a lack of requirement. Rebate prices remain low in comparison to historical data and in some cases are zero. But overall, there just isn’t the same demand for recyclate that there once was, compounded by the reduced commodity values of raw materials in the far east and southern hemisphere. Energy from waste has to be engaged with further to ensure redundant recyclate doesn’t sit languishing on the surface; single round bin collections would help offset some of the cost opposed to the current multiple bin servicing process. If there isn’t an order for raw material then reduce the processing cost and aim it at energy from waste”.
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