EXCLUSIVE: Public want to know where sorted waste goes, study suggests

A majority of Brits (91%) think that their local council should tell them where their carefully sorted waste is sent, according to a new study.

The survey by plastic bottle recycler Closed Loop Recycling highlights a growing concern that the public think that waste from their recycling bins are being shipped abroad to be landfilled.

A total of 84% of people think that it is a waste of time if recycling ends up in a foreign landfill site.

In addition to this, 78% of people think they would be more committed recyclers if they knew if their waste was being recycled here in the UK, ending up as new packaging on supermarket shelves.

The study also showed that people think that local authorities should play the biggest role in telling the public good news about recycling. Commenting on the results, Ricardo-AEA principal consultant Gareth Morton told edie: "The industry [public, private, reprocessors and (re)manufacturers] needs to talk more about what it does, where 'stuff' goes and what happens to it, at all levels.

"The industry also needs to respond very strongly and very publicly to scandal [like recycling going to foreign landfill] when it does happen. Maybe we ought to do some of our own [independent] auditing and vetting in future to head off any scandal before it even happens?

"We have to be more open and build greater trust with the public. Too often tracking the recycling journey for different materials is seen as 'a bit of a chore' by local authorities and recycling markets change periodically which means it has to be checked and redone regularly. But we should do this and we should be telling the public about it- constantly."

Ricardo AEA’s resource efficiency and waste management practice director Dr Adam Read explained: “If residents are willing to take the time and effort to segregate the wastes the last thing we as a sector should be doing is sending materials around the world only to be landfilled, residents want to know that their effort is not in vain!

“If we want people to recycle then we need to be clear about the benefits, the process and the end markets, transparency and honesty are fundamental themes if we are to get the public to trust and act upon the recycling agenda.”

Closed Loop Recycling chief executive Chris Dow added: “The industry has made great strides in closing the loop on waste and also supporting the sustainability of the circular economy. However one of the most important players in the loop is the British consumer, who has been enthusiastically recycling plastic bottles for many years.

“As our research shows, the whole industry needs to give them confidence that their bottles are going back onto the shelf, through industry wide education, packaging design and labelling. Every part of the recycling supply chain should be accountable to the consumer.

“In particular, local authorities play a critical role in educating their residents by providing easy to use kerbside recycling and showing householders that recycling not only diverts waste from landfill but ends up being recycled in Britain and back on British supermarket shelves, this has a major environmental impact.”

Liz Gyekye
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