Backlog produced by Christmas recycling

January 31, 2008 at 12:57 pm

This Christmas we were encouraged not only to fork out for the latest gadgets and organically sourced turkeys but also to consider our green conscience. Smiths and Tesco wanted our old Christmas cards. The local council would relieve us of our Christmas trees, in some cases turning them into wood chips. The bottle banks were gasping for our empties, and children up and down the country soon learned to hide their boredom, in case their mothers suggested an afternoon of peeling off the sellotape so that the wrapping paper could be recycled too.

With the excesses that Christmas brings it is little wonder that, if we want to reduce the harm done to the environment, desperate measures are called for. Each day in the run up to Christmas, the Royal Mail delivers 150 million cards and packages. 7.5 million Christmas trees are purchased. 83 square kms (similar to the area of Guernsey) of wrapping paper is used. We get through 750 million bottles and glass jars and 500 million drinks cans. This all adds up to a huge amount of rubbish headed for landfill sites unless we adopt a greener attitude. But what does going green mean for the recycling industry? How can it cope with the seasonal surge in recycling?

Material Recycling Facilities are reporting increases of up to 50% this Christmas, whilst some local councils say that all records have been broken. Some operators think that it will be Feb before they manage to clear the backlog and in the meantime it all has to be stockpiled. Whilst some see this as a major cause for concern, others take a more relaxed approach and have put measures in place such as longer opening hours to deal with the problem. One facility in the Midlands has seen its weekly average rise from 650 tonnes to over 1000 in the weeks following Christmas and estimates that it will take six to eight weeks to clear.

Joan Ruddock, the minister responsible for waste and recycling, has put a figure of 190,000 tonnes on the extra material to be recycled as a direct result of Christmas. This is excellent news for local authorities, who are always under pressure to boost their recycling figures. Liverpool, for instance, had a recycling rate of 12.7% in 2006/07 and wants that to rise to 20% in 2008. Last year in the city 400 tonnes of glass, plastic, paper, cardboard and wrapping paper was recycled over Christmas but this year that figure has increased to a whopping 1,900 tonnes, almost a fivefold improvement. Berni Turner, executive councillor for the environment, is confident that thanks to a good advertising campaign and the efforts of the people of Liverpool, the city will exceed the Government’s target for 2008.

Household recycling centres have reported a huge increase in the amount of electrical gadgets, in particular televisions, reaching their depots – proof if we needed it that we are still a throw away society.

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