Recycling rates boosted by fortnightly collections

April 27, 2007 at 12:30 pm

A study from the Local Government Association (LGA) claims that recycling rates are 30% higher where councils have opted for fortnightly rubbish collections over weekly ones.

Under the alternate weekly system, general non-recyclable rubbish is collected one week and rubbish that can be recycled the next. Over a third of councils in England have adopted the new arrangement.

Some householders have expressed concern that reducing the frequency of rubbish collections leads to bad smells, maggots and vermin. National newspaper The Daily Mail are even running a <a href="" target="
_blank”>campaign to save weekly rubbish collections, urging councils to consider public health consequences and guarantee a weekly service for all council tax payers.

Further scepticism has also been aroused by the possibility that the increase in recycling can simply be explained by the fact some councils made the switch to fortnightly collections at the same time as introducing recycling schemes. Critics of the new system point out that of the 216 of councils still providing weekly collections, 21 achieved recycling rates higher than the average among those with fortnightly collections. Two of the ten areas listed by the LGA as having the most improved recycling rates in the country still implement weekly collections.

Representing local councils across England, the LGA explained that moves towards fortnightly collections were aimed at working with residents to reduce waste, increase recycling and mitigate rising costs from EU legislation and higher landfill tax. With more rubbish being thrown into landfill in Britain than in any other European country, they highlighted a remarkably urgent need to overhaul rubbish disposal.

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Litter louts ruin Britain’s beaches

April 26, 2007 at 5:20 am

Throwaway culture is having a serious effect on UK beaches according to research published by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). Their annual Beachwatch litter survey reveals that litter on UK beaches has increased by a staggering 90.3% since 1994, now averaging around two items of litter for every metre stretch of beach.

Over 4,000 volunteers swept 187km of coastline, recording thousands of items of litter as they went. Individuals, rather than industry, were found to be the biggest culprits, responsible for over a third of the litter found.

Cotton buds that had been flushed down toilets were one of the worst offenders. The number of cigarette stubs ending up on beaches has also dramatically increased. Items which could be recycled were found in abundance, reflecting careless attitudes to the disposal of packaging.

Beach litter top ten:

– Plastic pieces (1cm-50cm)
– Cotton buds
– Plastic pieces (less than 1cm)
– Crisp/sweet wrappers
– Polystyrene
– Plastic lids
– Rope
– Cigarette stubs
– Plastic drink bottles
– Fishing nets

At 2,525 items per kilometre, Welsh beaches had the highest levels of litter, followed by Scotland, England and the Channel Islands. Northern Ireland had the lowest litter levels of all UK countries with 625 items/km.

The full Beachwatch report can be viewed at the MCS’s Adoptabeach website. The site also contains details of how to get involved in caring for the UK’s coastal environment.

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Recyclers put off by fines and confusion

April 23, 2007 at 11:45 am

News that a man has lost his appeal against a fine for mixing up his recycling has stirred up confusion and anger amongst householders in the UK. In October 2006, journalist Michael Reeves was ordered to pay a £100 fee and £100 costs for putting paper in a bag containing cans and bottles for recycling. He must now pay an extra £350 in prosecution costs after his appeal at Swansea Crown Court was turned down.

Environmental campaigners have criticised the prosecution, concerned that it may put people off recycling. Friends of the Earth Cymru felt that while persistent offenders should be prosecuted, punishment for one-off offences could send out the wrong signals.

Members of the public have expressed dismay that they not only pay taxes to fund recycling services, but run the risk of further charges if they fall foul of rules and regulations. Members of an eBay community discussion forum talk of being ‘too scared’ to use recycling bins and complain that there is ‘no consistency’ among councils. A recent survey carried out by HIPPOWASTE™ revealed that young people in particular found it difficult to establish what could or could not be recycled.

Swansea City Council is keen to reassure residents that prosecutions like Mr Reeves’ are rare. The Local Government Association’s environment board defended local authorities working on the frontline in the fight against climate change and stressed that advice and education were key priorities.

Information on recycling a wide range of materials can be found on our Reduce, Reuse, Recycle page . You can obtain contact details for your local recycling officer and find out what your local council recycles on the Recycle Now website.

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Waste shipped around the world for recycling

April 15, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Recyclers across Britain have been shocked by recent media reports showing that many of their carefully recycled goods end up causing environmental havoc in China. Figures show that in 2006, 1.9 billion tonnes of rubbish (mainly paper, card and metal) was sent 5,000 miles from Britain to China, where it ended up in unregulated recycling plants.

Rubbish is transported in empty container ships returning to China after delivering manufactured goods to the UK and Europe. This means that there is little additional energy or financial cost in transporting the goods, but the environmental impact on China is disastrous.

Most of the rubbish that arrives in China either ends up in landfill sites or is sorted out and anything which can’t be reused or resold is burnt. The effect on humans and the environment is significant. Some of the rubbish contains lead and, if this ends up in landfill sites, poisons can enter the water system, damaging both humans and the environment. Meanwhile, burning plastics and other waste products has effected air quality in many towns and villages, with locals arguing that deteriorating air quality is contributing to an increase in cancers and other serious health problems. Furthermore, rubbish such as plastic bags often blows away from recycling plants and ends up blocking waterways and destroying the landscape.

Despite legislation in China governing recycling issues, it is rarely reinforced due to a lack of resources, and much of the recycling takes place in places where health and environmental issues are not a priority. In some provinces, unlicensed recycling factories are now illegal, but when they are forced to close down they usually end up relocating to another area.

It is not only Britain that sends its rubbish to China, many other European countries such as France and Germany are also involved in this rubbish trade. Europeans are able to take advantage of EU regulations that forbid rubbish being dumped overseas, but allow sorted waste to be shipped abroad for recycling purposes.

Environmental organisations argue that wealthy countries need to learn how to deal with their waste problems themselves rather than exporting the problem to less developed countries. The question is whether or not it is right for us to expect poorer countries to pay the environmental price for our waste, or if we should be looking at more sustainable ways to recycle our rubbish at home?

At the end of the day, does knowing that your waste may end up being shipped out to China stop you wanting to recycle?

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Crack down on waste this Easter

April 5, 2007 at 12:07 pm

Waste awareness groups across the UK are warning us not to forget the environment as we tuck into our Easter treats this year. We generate a staggering 4,500 tonnes of extra waste from the foil and card in Easter egg packaging, much of which ends up in landfill sites rather than being recycled.

A study by Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed that shoppers waste huge amounts of money on excessive packaging at Easter. One of the worst examples found was a 295g Easter egg costing £4.98, being sold alongside a 400g bar of the same chocolate priced at £2.18. That’s nearly 70% of the sale price going towards packaging the chocolate egg.

Aberdeen’s Waste Aware Team is running special sessions for shoppers to show them how to reduce their waste over Easter, while waste bosses in Wiltshire, South West England, urged consumers to make maximum use of local recycling facilities over the holiday. Waste Awareness Wales published top tips for reducing waste this Easter and Recycle Now suggested we think again about buying heavily packaged Easter gifts.

Here are a few ideas on how to reduce waste at Easter:

  • Go for homemade Easter treats instead of buying packaged ones from the shops. They’ll be cheaper and good fun for children to make. Chocolate cornflake nests are always a winner!
  • Traditional hand painted Easter eggs can make great gifts or table decorations. Make small holes in the top and bottom of an egg, carefully blow out the contents and allow the eggshell to dry before decorating it with paint, felt tip or fabric. Alternatively, hard boil eggs with food colouring before decorating them.
  • Send Easter greetings by email instead of using cards. Jimpix has beautiful photo-ecards and Cancer Research UK has animated Easter ecards.
  • If you’re cooking a big lunch for the family, make sure you compost fruit and vegetable peelings instead of throwing them in the bin.
  • Recycle any packaging you can. You may need to separate out the various components. Foil and cardboard can normally be recycled locally. Easter cards can be recycled, or used again in craft projects.
  • Fancy a low-calorie Easter? Why not ditch the chocolate and help nourish someone in the developing world instead? Oxfam Unwrapped and the Good Gifts Catalogue both offer a wide range of totally fat-free ethical gifts.

Animal welfare organisation Adoptahen are adding an extra twist to their hen-adoption programme this Easter by installing webcams in incubators. The eggs under the ‘hatchcam’ are due to hatch on Easter Sunday. All those who adopt a hen will be able to see the live action, as will those who sign up for special access over the Easter period.

There are also hundreds of green events and activities going on over the Easter break. The Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales, is putting on a special series of workshops, theatre, games and video shows designed to help children understand their impact on the earth. Easter egg hunts, craft sessions and spring walks are happening up and down the country. The National Trust, RSPB, English Heritage and local Wildlife Trusts all have Easter events listings on their websites.

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Young people don’t care about recycling

April 4, 2007 at 11:58 am

A survey carried out by waste management company HIPPOWASTETMshows that older people are better recyclers than the so-called ‘green generation’.

Over half of 16-24 year olds in the UK are not doing any recycling at all. In contrast, over 82% of over 65s claim to be regular recyclers. Overall, around 70% of UK householders now rate themselves as good or excellent recyclers.

A 2001 study conducted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) interviewed more than 3,700 over 18s in England on their attitudes to quality of life and the environment. It revealed that the older the respondent, the more likely they were to participate in recycling, with the most enthusiastic recyclers being aged 65 and over. This age group was also the most likely to make compost out of kitchen waste.

The most common reasons given by 18-24 year olds for not recycling were lack of time or lack of desire. In the HIPPOWASTETM survey, young people said they found it difficult to know what could or could not be recycled.

The Young People’s Trust for the Environment is a charity dedicated to improving young people’s understanding of the environment and the need for sustainability. It provides materials for teachers, parents and young people on environmental issues and how to tackle them.

The Young Greens are keen to encourage more university students to become active recyclers. Their University Recycling Campaign aims to overcome the stereotypical view of students as apathetic layabouts. Suggestions for action include awareness-raising campaigns, setting up recycling schemes and lobbying for better recycling facilities at colleges and universities.

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New wood recycling facility opens in Middlesbrough

April 3, 2007 at 7:47 pm

The UK’s largest purpose built wood recycling facility has been officially opened by Lord Truscott, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy. The launch is part of a broader effort to make better use of waste wood in the UK.

The new plant at Wilton, near Middlesbrough, will produce around 80,000 tonnes of recycled wood chip a year for its neighbouring biomass power station, run by SembCorp Utilities UK Ltd. Using renewable and recycled resources, instead of fossil fuels, to produce electricity means reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Other products such as animal bedding, horse-riding surfaces, compost and panel board will also be produced.

The waste wood used by the plant will be sourced from local authorities, furniture manufacturers, packaging companies and waste companies. Any non-hazardous wood can be recycled using hammer mills, shredding and a decontamination process.

UK businesses produce around 2 million tones of wood waste each year. Households can also end up with unwanted wood from DIY, discarded furniture or tree-felling. Local authorities are increasingly offering facilities for collecting wood waste at local household waste centres.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has a website dedicated specifically to wood recycling, where you can type in your postcode to find your nearest wood recycling service.

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