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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EU directive could put end to mixed collections in Wales

August 16, 2012 at 10:04 am

A new EU directive could mean that many councils in Wales will have to stop operating single-bag recycling collections in 2015.

About half of the councils in Wales currently operate single-bag collections – also known as co-mingling – where residents put all of their waste to be recycled into one bag and the council then sorts it.

However, the new directive states that this practice will have to stop and that instead residents will have to separate the waste to be recycled themselves.

The major problem with this is that many of the councils have invested heavily in sorting facilities which will effectively become redundant if the sorting is carried out by residents instead.

On top of this, the councils will have to invest more money in new vehicles which are capable of carrying out kerb-side collections.

Additionally, many councils currently receive grants from the Welsh government to help with their recycling. However, if they do not follow the directives then they will not be able to get access to this money.

Despite the concerns, others have welcomed the directive saying that co-mingling is not effective and that items that should be recycled often end up being wasted due to being damaged or dirty.

Wales has very impressive recycling levels and some of the most ambitious targets in Europe. Its current recycling rate is nearly 50% and it has a target of 70% by 2025.

There are fears that these targets may be affected if all residents have to start sorting out their own recycling.

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Wales beats rest of UK for recycling rates

July 26, 2012 at 10:06 am

The recycling and reusing of waste is something that the whole of the UK needs to take very seriously now that the EU waste framework directive is demanding that the UK has to recycle or reuse 50% of its waste by 2020.

At the moment Wales is leading the field after recent figures showed that the average amount of recycling per household is 48% for the 2011/12 financial year.

The figures were revealed in a report called the Local Authority Municipal Waste Management, January-March 2012, which showed that the recycling rates just keep on going up.

These figures are 4% up on the previous year, and at this rate the country will have no problem hitting the EU targets. Indeed, Wales’ aim is to reach a 52% recycling rate in 2012/13.

England is currently lagging behind on 40%, and each year the increase in the amount of recycling gets smaller, meaning it may become a real challenge to reach its EU targets.

The biggest increases in the amount of waste being recycled or reused were seen in the Vale of Glamorgan and Conwy, with each seeing rises of 10%.

By 2050 the government wants to recycle or reuse all of the country’s waste, and this is its ambitious Towards Zero Waste strategy. As part of this strategy it is aiming to increase recycling rates to 70% by 2025.

Wales is the only country to introduce required targets for municipal waste. In addition, every authority in the country currently operates green and food waste collections separately.

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PET bottle recycling up over 50% in Europe

July 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Positive figures emerged from Europe recently with the news that recycling levels for PET bottles across the EU last year were up 9.4% to 1.59 million tonnes compared to the previous year.

The figures were released by Petcore (PET Containers Recycling Europe) and EuPR (the European Plastics Recyclers), which are the European recycling trade bodies, and the collection of PET bottles in Europe is now an impressive 51%.

The figures were revealed in a study titled the ‘Post Consumer PET recycling in Europe 2011 and Prospects to 2016’. The study also stated that only three countries in the EU had less than 22.5% recycling rate, which is the target set by the Packaging Waste Directive.

Indeed, over a third of the countries were boasting collection rates of over 70%.

Despite the increasing amount of recycling of PET bottles, there is still more that needs to be done. The total capacity for recycling this material is thought to be 1.9 million tonnes, so there is still a lot more potential. Indeed, Casper van den Dungen, the chair of the EuPR PET Working Group, said that currently we are only using 77% of the total capacity of the recycle plants.

The chairman of Petcore, Roberto Bertaggia, said that he was delighted that the recycling rate had broken through the 50% barrier, and that a total of 140 kilotonnes extra was collected in 2011 compared to the previous year, which amounts to 5.6 billion bottles. He also pledged to “continue to develop and promote PET’s recyclability”.

These positive figures will hopefully spur both the public and the government in the UK to improve the country’s PET recycling rates even further.

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£30bn of unused clothing stored in our wardrobes

July 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm

There are currently 1.7 billion items of old clothing stored away in the UK’s wardrobes which have not been used for a year or longer, according to new figures from WRAP, the waste reduction body.

The average home has £4,000 of clothes in its wardrobes, but nearly a third of these are not worn for a year or longer with the main reason being that they no longer fit. All of these clothes are worth a combined total of £30 billion.

WRAP discovered the figures after carrying out research for its study called ‘Valuing Our Clothes’, which suggests that by making more use of our old clothes we can reduce waste, reduce the use of valuable resources and even benefit financially.

The report states that as much as a third of clothing goes to landfill when it is not being used. However, alternatives to this include giving them to charities or local authorities, or even just giving them to friends or exchanging them so that they can then be reused or recycled.

Another alternative is to sell your old clothes which could have financial benefits as well, which could be tempting in these times of austerity.

By using clothes for longer, the report also suggests that we could reduce the use of resources such as carbon, water and waste which could go down 20% to 30% if we use clothes for just nine months longer than normal, and this could potentially save £5 billion in resources.

WRAP also suggests a business model whereby retailers purchase their own clothes back from the consumers and resell them. Over half of people surveyed said they would be happy to do this, and two thirds said they would be open to buying returned clothes.

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Unilever encouraging tea bag recycling

May 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Unilever, the world’s largest tea company, has recently got together with two councils in Essex to collaborate on a marketing campaign aimed at encouraging more tea drinkers to recycle their tea bags rather than sending them to landfill.

Brentwood Borough Council, Chelmsford Council and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) have all joined up with Unilever to promote the new campaign, which features the famous monkey from one of Unilever’s biggest brands, PG Tips.

96% of all tea in Britain is brewed using a tea bag. That is a lot of tea bags, and despite the fact that they can easily be used as compost, WRAP estimates the amount of tea bags going to landfill at 370,000 tonnes each year.

The campaign is encouraging more people to dispose of their tea bags in their kerbside food waste collections rather than in their standard waste.

Unilever has stated that it wants to reduce the amount of waste that it sends to landfill by 50% over the next eight years. As part of its own waste reduction targets, Paul Sherratt at Unilever said that the company wants to “encourage consumers to recycle wherever they can”. He also said that putting tea bags into the food waste is a “small habit change that everyone can adopt”.

Even if you do not have a food waste collection facility provided by your council, it is still easy to put tea bags and other food waste into a compost bin to prevent it being sent to landfill. If you have a small outside space you can install a small compost bin and this is one of the easiest ways to do your part for the environment with very little effort.

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