Daily Mail accuses DEFRA of conning UK citizens

April 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm

The Daily Mail has accused the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of lying to citizens about what happens to their carefully collected recycling. The newspaper points to documents recently released by Defra stating that millions of tonnes of UK household recycling is being dumped abroad, despite that being illegal.

The headlining story entitled ‘The Great Recycling Con Trick’ alleges that most of the waste shipped abroad for recycling is so contaminated it cannot be used and instead ends up in landfill in countries like China, Indonesia and India. The paper also stated that household recycling was not the only problem: old audio-visual equipment ends up buried in West Africa and rubber tyres in China.

Defra have issued a counter-statement in direct response, claiming that the vast majority of recycling sent abroad is in fact re-processed into usable materials. Owen Paterson, the head of the government agency, said that they will be clamping down on UK ports and imbuing authorities with the necessary powers to intervene in the trafficking of illegal waste.

Nevertheless, the Mail alleges that Defra admitted in their own report, that once the recycling is out of UK waters, it is out of their hands and in most cases they do not know what happens to it.

Contaminated recycling is a result of poorly performing household recycling, or poor handling by the waste collection authorities. One way to combat the problems, says Defra, is to introduce stricter controls and penalties at this level.

The new EU Waste Directive, which came into play this year, also put pressure on the UK to export vast quantities of recyclable waste abroad.

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UK and Ireland show the greatest increase in recycling out of all EU member states

March 28, 2013 at 8:53 am

The UK and Ireland showed a dramatic rise in recycling rates during the first 10 years of the new millennium, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Despite getting off to a bad start with only 13% of household waste recycled in 2001, the UK now resides nearer the top of the European charts at 43% in 2013.

Experts say that this puts us on form to reach the EEA directive of 50% of recycling all waste by 2017 three years ahead of schedule. Wales is even further ahead, recycling 54% of household waste and already exceeding the European directive by 4%.

In 2010, out of all EU member states Austria continued to hold the top place at 62.8% while Germany (61.8%) stole second from Belgium (57.6%). Meanwhile Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria continued to languish around the 1% mark, with the latter recording 0% recycling of waste.

Executive director of the EEA Jacqueline McGlade said that the current demand for recycled products should make a clear economic case for recycling, especially in those countries where such resources are going to waste.

Recycling conserves valuable resources and can significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from municipal waste. Between 2001 and 2010, changes in the way waste is managed has prevented 38 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere in Norway, the UK and Switzerland alone.

According to the report, the widespread improvement in recycling rates is due to improvements in infrastructure and process, as well as emerging trends in using recycled materials. There has been much less progress in recycling organic waste however and the UK is still sending vast amounts of valuable resources to landfill – a clear case for home composting if you ever heard of it.

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Handy tips on recycling electrical items

March 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Anything requiring either batteries or mains power to operate is classified as an electrical or electronic item. When it becomes waste it is known as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment). In the UK alone we discard over a million tonnes of WEEE every year and the amount is growing.

If put into landfill, precious metals and plastic are wasted, doubly bad if you think about the impact mining for more metals has on the environment. More than ever, it’s important that we recycle correctly. Here’s how:

  • If you live in North London DHL and NWLA operate a scheme through which they collect and recycle your WEEE for free. You can’t get fairer than that! Find more info at 123 recycle for free.
  • Look out for manufacturer recycling schemes. Some will collect for free or a predefined charge, others require the equipment to be brought to a store.
  • Ask your council to collect it. They are legally bound to do so, but may charge a fee.
  • Take it to a recycling centre. The website Recycle Now allows you to enter your postcode, find your nearest centre and discover which items you can recycle both there and at your kerbside.
  • If it’s still working, donate your equipment to a charity shop or to another lucky citizen via the fantastic Freecycle network.
  • If you’re worried about not having a digital TV, there’s no need to throw your old set out. Any analogue TV can receive digital signals via a digital box.
  • You can even make money with unwanted electrical goods on sites such as eBay and Gumtree. Once you get it all together you may be surprised how much extra cash it adds up to.

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Ecover to recycle plastic waste from sea

March 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Ecover, the Belgian company known for its eco-cleaning products, recently announced that it will be creating new bottles for its products that will be made from plastic waste collected from the sea.

The company will use the plastic waste collected by fishermen trawling the sea, and then it will combine the recycled plastic with another type of plastic that is made using sugar cane. It is expecting to start selling products in the new plastic containers next year.

The company said that it would be working with Closed Loop Recycling, a plastic recycling company in the UK, as well as Waste Free Oceans. Fishing boats will be provided with special equipment to enable them to collect up to eight tonnes of plastic during each trawl. The waste will then be deposited at collection points and delivered to the Closed Loop Recycling plant in Dagenham for processing.

Philip Malmberg, the chief executive of Ecover, said that the company does not yet have a “definitive figure” on the amount of sea plastic that will be used in its new products, but confirmed that they would simply try to use “as much as is possible” depending on how much the fishermen collect.

Malmberg said that the company is “always pushing boundaries” when it comes to sustainability, and its focus on innovation means that it is now creating products that “deliver more than a nod to sustainability”. The company also claims that the new plastic will be the first fully recyclable and sustainable plastic, and confirmed that the costs of the process will not be passed onto consumers.

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Could landfill mining soon begin in Scotland?

March 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm

As recycling becomes increasingly important across the UK, new ways of finding and recycling materials are emerging. One of the latest is the idea by the Scottish government to ‘mine’ old landfill sites for useful materials that can be recycled.

It has commissioned Zero Waste Scotland to carry out a study into how feasible the process of landfill mining will be. If it turns out to be a real possibility, Scotland could see landfill mining become a reality in the near future.

On the face of it, landfill mining makes perfect sense. It involves extracting recyclable materials such as metal and plastic from landfill sites to make use of them rather than leaving them as waste. At the same time, other items that are recovered during the process can be burned in incinerators to produce energy for homes. Other things that could be mined include mobile phones and computers, which often contain rare earth materials. A spokesman from Zero Waste Scotland said that landfill sites “could contain valuable recyclable materials”.

However, the idea is not without its critics. Some have said that it is much better to focus on recycling materials rather than digging them up, cleaning them and then recycling them, and that government money would be better spent educating the public about proper ways of recycling in the first place.

If it does go ahead, it is likely that the first landfill sites to be mined will be those dating back to the 1970s. Older landfill sites are a lot less likely to be suitable because the materials will probably be too degraded.

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Sweeping changes to household recycling laws rejected by Cardiff Judge

March 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm

A Cardiff judge has rejected a legal motion to overhaul radically the way councils collect household waste in Britain. The move, lodged by seven different recycling firms and backed by green lobbyists such as Friends of the Earth, would have demanded that waste be collected in a minimum of five different bins. Metal, glass and plastic would have needed to be separated individually along with non-recyclable waste, garden refuse and organic matter.

The Campaigners for Real Recycling maintain that the complex rules are needed to meet the new EU Waste Framework Directive which came into operation in 2010. However Mr Justice Hickinbottom ruled at Cardiff’s High Court that UK councils are free to decide how to organise their own recycling schemes.

After the judgement was made public, DEFRA went on record to say, “This ruling shows our interpretation of the Waste Framework Directive is right.” However they recently conceded that a high proportion of household waste goes into landfill as it is too contaminated to be processed by recycling plants.

Currently, four out of ten UK households are required to separate waste into four different bins separating metal, plastic, paper and glass. The Brussels directive states that “waste shall be collected separately if technically, environmentally and economically practicable, and shall not be mixed with other waste or other material with different properties”. The subsequent ruling means that the decision on how to collect waste remains at a local level and conforms to EU rules as long as waste can be collected in a usable state. Mr Justice Hickinbottom maintained that his decision was made in order to reflect the differing circumstances present in communities across the nation.

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London recycling bins to get electronic displays

February 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Recycling just got a whole lot more interesting in London. Electronic displays have started popping up on 100 newspaper recycling bins across the City of London, making good use of a prime bit of real estate. It is thought that the displays will be used to show adverts, news and a whole range of other information to people in the area.

The bins and displays have been provided by Renew, which has a 21-year contract for the bins. Kaveh Memari is the chief executive, and he said that the displays will be used to display news, information about the Tube and transport in the city, advertisements and more.

The news will be provided by journalists, and publications including Time Out and The Economist will also be providing content. Emergency messages are also likely to be placed on the bins when necessary. So now if you are in the area you won’t even need to take out your smartphone to get access to the latest information.

The bins were originally erected because too many free newspapers were being discarded in the city. It was originally hoped that the screens would be up and working in time for the Olympics, but they had to be pushed back.

The main question people are probably asking is how the bins make any money. The answer is in the form of advertising, sponsorship and collaboration with publishers. Memari even claims that the company is in talks with various film studios which he hopes will take advantage of the viral marketing possibilities that the bins provide.

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Reduce, reuse and then recycle – in that order

January 21, 2013 at 11:23 am

The current state of capitalism in which we find ourselves means a society addicted to the new. Obtaining the new is equal to discarding the old; this spells a constant and consistent collateral creation of waste. Recycling alone is not the answer, in fact it is the last thing that we should be doing. Before we get to that point we need first to reduce our consumption to avoid waste and then see if there is a way we can use the item again for a different purpose or switch to a reusable version. That is why the three R’s are structured as they are – not as separate or even complementary concepts, but as a sequential procedure designed to minimise our current way of life’s impact on the earth.

Reduce first; this is the most important of all. Start with the low hanging fruit, waste intensive consumer items, for which there are environment-healthy alternatives, for instance purchase a refillable water bottle and carry it out and about with you, use cloth items instead of paper for nappies, napkins and plates. Exercise your consumer purchasing power and avoid anything you deem to have too much packaging. 38% of council waste is estimated to be packaging alone.

Reuse next; it’s time to get creative so have some fun. Old jam jars and bottles make excellent containers. Take the time to donate your old clothes, books and DVDs to charity, or offer them up for collection on one of the myriad of swap-shop websites such as Freecycle. Lastly, if you have a garden, think about composting your food waste. If it goes into landfill, food waste creates hazardous, unusable land due to the build up of methane. If it goes onto your garden it creates a rich environment for plants and micro-organisms to thrive. What could be a simpler choice than that?

Finally recycle, and do it correctly. Separate out your glass and take it to the bottle bank, the same with plastics. With the latter make sure that the plastic is indeed recyclable as not all types are and mistakes can create unusable waste. Too much council recycling ends up in landfill due to this and other types of contamination.

In terms of environmental impact, society is still playing catch-up with itself, and it looks to be that way for a long time yet. So in the meantime it’s the responsibility of each of us to do our bit and this means the three R’s, in the right order.

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Up to 20% of household recycling contaminated

January 7, 2013 at 11:28 am

Figures released by DEFRA (The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) estimate that up to 20% of household recycling is contaminated and ends up in Landfill. The amount of rubbish being rejected has risen dramatically in the last five year period. The non-recyclable items at fault included textiles, the wrong types of plastic, organic matter, and actual recyclable materials that are soiled beyond use.

All of this seems to point to a lack of education, rather than will on the behalf of citizens. It’s up to councils to educate constituents says the Government but far from doing so, they seem to be adding to the problem by insisting on mixed recyclables collected in a single bag. While this may bring down the cost of collection since it passes those costs on to the re-processing sector, who are forced to re-route sub-standard material, it’s not only the UK industry which suffers; China is also forced to dump huge quantities of UK waste in landfill rather than recycle it for profit.

The solution may lie in education and a variety of bins at the kerbside for separate items. There are calls from various sectors now to improve not just the quantity of domestic recycling but the quality as well. Those involved range from Government ministers to Friends of the Earth, because we may just be running out of room for more unusable wasteland. It’s not just that food waste creates potentially explosive levels of methane in landfill sites, it’s that proper recycling conserves valuable natural resources such as metals extracted by mining.

While our councils get their act together perhaps it’s time for us to look more carefully at what we are recycling; after all this is an area where every little bit counts.

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UK recycling targets under threat from China ban

October 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

The CEO of the Packaging and Films Association (PAFA) has given a stark warning to the government that the plastic industry in the UK is unlikely to hit its recycling target of 57% if investment in the plastic recycling infrastructure is not improved.

The warning comes after the Ministry of Environmental Protection in China recently announced that it may start to enforce new regulations to prohibit the import of unwashed consumer plastics from the EU.

If the new tighter restrictions are enforced, this would be a huge blow to the UK’s plastic industry because the Far East is by far the largest market for plastic exports.

Malaysia recently banned imports of all plastic waste from the EU, so if China were to follow suit and announce similar bans, this could have a devastating impact.

Barry Turner, the CEO of PAFA, said that such a ban could see the end of plastic waste exportation to China, and would lead to extra pressure on the plastic industry in the UK to meet its recycling targets set by Defra, which he said were already “unrealistic”.

The current recycling target set by Defra is 57% by 2017, but according to Turner only two local councils – Denbighshire and Staffordshire Moorlands – are close to achieving the target of 57% at the moment.

Mr Turner suggested that much more investment in the infrastructure for dealing with plastic waste in the UK is needed. At present it is not enough to cope should one of our major export markets be cut off.

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