It's too easy to talk rubbish

Another round of bin bashing took place last night (October 10) as Channel 4's Dispatches aired its 'Britain's Rubbish' programme which attempted to investigate the latest efforts of the waste industry in dealing with what we throw away.

The documentary, which took a mildly sensationalist approach, was disappointing on a number of fronts. Despite mentioning the Government's Waste Review several times – the presenter constantly lifted choice quotes from it – no-one was interviewed from Defra, the department that actually drew up the document.

Instead, the producers allowed Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to revel in his Tikka Masala speech (his finest hour, no doubt) and then interviewed his trusty cohort Bob Neill, on why weekly bin collections are good for the soul. Talk about one-sided.

What also dismayed me was the blatant emphasis on recycling and no mention of energy recovery, which is playing an increasingly important role in modern waste management. When talking about co-mingling, the presenter began to sound like a hired plug for the Campaign for Real Recycling, shaking his head at contaminated bales and tutting at MRF reject rates.

What he didn't point out is that whatever material isn't extracted from the recycling process can still be recovered through other means, such as thermal treatment. Perhaps this was beyond his understanding of the subject – I hope so, because to deliberately leave out a complete stage of the waste hierarchy  is beyond a joke.

The programme further fell down by taking the easy option of blaming councils and their collection set-ups, rather than looking more holistically at the bigger picture – mainly, our consumption habits, retailers and the packaging supply chain. Despite products still being over-packaged, there is a lot of good work going on in the field.

Speaking on Radio 4's <em >Women's Hourthis morning about zero waste, Bob Gordon from the British Retail Consortium captured it nicely when he said: "We blame BOGOF, but actually it's about food planning and better food management. Retailers are optimising packaging so that products last longer – the problem is, stuff isn't getting into the recycling bin."

Whatever your view and whoever you blame you can't deny that the world of waste is a complicated mix. Trying to simplify it in a way like Dispatches did does nobody any favours – least of all the public who have a real thirst to learn more about the subject. Knowledge is power – lets not blinker them.

Follow me on twitter @rubbishrules

maxine perella

Topics: edie
Tags: | Energy Recovery | eric pickles | food | packaging | planning | retail | supply chain | waste management | zero waste
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