Local authorities to grant referendums on services

September 24, 2010 at 1:35 pm

A new bill from the government is set to hand over more control to local authorities and to empower constituents. The bill, known as the Decentralisation and Localism Bill, is aimed at improving recycling schemes across England and Wales.

In a notable move towards David Cameron’s big society, if the bill is passed communities will be able to call for referendums on local services such as waste collections and tax issues. The focus is on getting local people involved in the running of their constituency and adapting services to suit each area.

It is hoped that a move towards more localised control will mean more efficient public services and encourage financial growth.

With recycling in mind, this month government minister Bob Neill gave examples of what the bill hopes to achieve. Mr Neill referred to the ‘Big Bin Vote’ carried out by Dartford council in 2007, highlighting how the vote had shown that the majority of people were opposed to the Labour government’s bi-weekly waste collections and wished to return to weekly collections.

A return to weekly collections has been a long-running Conservative policy, one that they argued for in opposition and are now hoping to see enacted.

Mr Neill hopes that other councils "will follow Dartford’s example in the difficult times ahead" and that they will "listen to local people about what services matter the most.”

The department for the environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) stated that this has meant the end for pay-as-you-throw pilot waste schemes that were being introduced after the Climate Change Act of 2008. To replace these the localism bill hopes to introduce financially based incentive schemes for recycling instead.

The localism bill will even allow local people the opportunity to veto some policies such as excessive council tax increases. It has not been made clear, outside of recycling and waste schemes, how far these powers will be extended and for what services authorities may grant referendums. Nor has it been spelled out what will be required to call a referendum or whether councils will be obliged to act in response.

The bill was outlined in May this year during the Queen’s speech. Ministers hope to pass it through parliament in the coming months. Details of other services to be affected are expected to be released in the near future.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Environmentally friendly milk bottles

September 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Plastic milk bottles were introduced because of expenditure, ease of use and recyclability. Although plastic milk bottles are cheaper to make and recyclable, the process of recycling plastic is more time-consuming than recycling the original milk containers – glass bottles.

What’s more, not everyone, despite widespread encouragement, recycles. As plastic is an inorganic material that does not decompose, not recycling it creates a mass of landfill waste which is damaging to the environment. Indeed, the average person in Europe throws away 85 plastic bottles per year and only 7% of plastic that is disposed of is recycled properly.

In a response to an appeal for ‘greener’ packaging, supermarket Sainsbury’s are introducing eco-friendly milk bottles. The milk pouches are reported to use up less energy and “take up far less space”. In 2007 Waitrose quietly initiated the product but quickly withdrew it because of “poor sales”; Sainsbury’s, however, have been successful in their milk pouch enterprise claiming “sales have far exceeded [their] expectations”.

The reason Sainsbury’s have had an advantage over Waitrose is attributable to their marketing strategy; before the product was launched Sainbury’s staff had the opportunity to use the milk pouches at home, which enabled them to answer any questions customers had about the product and to assist them if they had any difficulty in using it. The product “costs 6p less than a standard 2-pint bottle of milk”, “contains 75% less plastic”, and, if successful, will “reduce packaging by a third by 2015.”

Although some people will be sceptical of this product, with such impressive predictions for the future, there is no reason why other supermarket chains should not follow suit.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Government to offer voluntary recycling deals to businesses

September 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm

The government is planning to take a new direction when it comes to controlling the amount of waste produced by businesses. Rather than introducing further legislation and fines for businesses that don’t comply, it wants to introduce a voluntary deal instead.

The announcement was made by Lord Henley, the waste and recycling minister, whilst he was visiting the SITA UK plant. He said that voluntary responsibility deals are the government’s preferred option to reduce waste and improve recycling rates in the UK without having to introduce new laws.

The most well-known voluntary agreement up to now has been the Courtauld Commitment. This was introduced in the grocery sector in 2005 and proved to be very successful. Using this example the government now wants to show that the same principle can be applied to other sectors.

This is not a new idea as it was actually mentioned in the Conservative Party’s manifesto in the lead up to the general election, but now Lord Henley has made it clear that we could see progress in the near future.

Henley’s exact words were that the government wants businesses to “do the right thing” rather than having to be “tied down or penalised with excessive rules and regulations.”

Businesses in the UK create almost twice as much waste as households so it is even more important to get them to take greater responsibility for it. The government is likely to encourage competition between companies using incentives for reduced waste and increased recycling rates. The government is also hoping that businesses will come forward with their own proposals for change.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Sainsbury’s to offer mobile-phone charger recycling

September 3, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Sainsbury’s has added another notch to its environmental bow with the introduction of a new recycling scheme for mobile-phone chargers. Throughout August 2010, customers will be able to take their old mobile-phone chargers to any Sainsbury’s store and deposit them to be sent for recycling.

Although mobile-phone recycling has become something of a boom industry in the last few years, phone chargers have been largely forgotten. This is due to the fact that they are more difficult to recycle, and there is also no money involved for recycling an old charger.

As a result, estimates put the figure of unused chargers in the UK at about 20 million – that’s about 5,000 tonnes of waste cluttering up drawers across the nation.

The supermarket is the perfect place to get rid of the old chargers as people have become used to recycling other objects there. Sainsbury’s already has schemes for the recycling of mobile phones and sat navs, so this is yet another positive addition.

It comes as part of the supermarket’s initiative called ‘Make the Difference Days’, and will come to an end on August 28. By this time the supermarket hopes to have collected about 150,000 chargers from both its customers and its employees.

The property director at Sainsbury’s, Neil Sachdev, said that they were hoping to “raise awareness of charger recycling facilities” at the same time as saving about “40 tonnes of waste from going to landfill”.

He highlighted the fact that only 280,000 chargers are currently recycled annually, so if they manage to hit their target of 150,000 they could increase these recycling rates by more than 50%.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »