Milton Keynes leads the way on street recycling

September 21, 2007 at 2:58 am

Better known for its “New Town” status and plethora of roundabouts, Milton Keynes is also leading the way when it comes to recycling. The local authority is one of the UK’s most successful in this area, recycling over 35% of all household waste.

Elsewhere in Britain recycling rates are much lower, due in part to the lack of public recycling facilities. Milton Keynes Council is tackling the issue by placing recycling bins in public areas to allow residents to recycle litter when they are on the move, and providing street cleaners with the facility to sort rubbish as it is collected. These measures have already diverted 12 tonnes of waste from landfill.

DEFRA (the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) is hoping to encourage other local authorities to follow suit, through a scheme called Recycle on the Go, which is being run in conjunction with ENCAMS. The environmental charity believes public spaces – high streets, parks and entertainment venues – could be transformed into cleaner, greener areas through the introduction of recycling bins for paper, glass and cans as well as other rubbish.

The Voluntary Code of Practice on Recycle on the Go has not been given the go ahead just yet. A consultation is happening before Ministers make a decision. There certainly seems to be demand for improved street recycling facilities:

“92% of people recycle to some extent already,” said Ian Clayton, Deputy Chief Executive, ENCAMS. “It makes sense to make it easy to do so when people are out shopping or going to the cinema.”

Whether the public will use the recycling bins properly remains an issue, however. Some kerbside collection schemes have recently run into problems, as the proportion of recyclate which is contaminated with other waste has risen.

Although public recycling bins have been in place for years on the continent, particularly in Germany, they function well because the public is well-educated about recycling and how to sort rubbish. With widespread confusion about what can and cannot be recycled, it is likely that an awareness campaign would be needed to accompany roll-out of the bins. And with anti-social behaviour seemingly on the rise in the UK, will good recycling behaviour triumph, or will the bins simply become an easy target for vandalism?

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