Innovative councils already far exceed Government 2010 recycling target

A number of councils with imaginative recycling strategies are already far exceeding the Government’s target of 30% recycling by 2010, according to a new report by a UK recycling campaign group.

Recycling in Action, written by the Community Recycling Network, examines 15 pioneering schemes across England and Wales, involving a wide variety of social groups, from councils in inner cities to those in isolated rural areas. The authors have found that, with adequate resources, recycling and composting can work anywhere.

“The future is going to be a lot rosier for recycling,” Sam Brown, editor of the report, told edie. Although the demand for the products of recycling are currently small, acting as one of the many constraints on recycling, Brown is optimistic that the markets and recycling capacity will increase alongside each other, particularly with the aid of both government and European legislation. “The industry as a whole is growing,” she said.

The most successful scheme in the report is a four year trial being run by Colchester Borough Council, on Mersea Island in Essex, with a population of 10,000 residents, which had a recycling rate of 57% at the time that the report was compiled, with 90% of inhabitants participating. The recycling rate is expected to rise to 65-70% with the targeting of the traditionally lower capture rate materials, such as cardboard, plastics and textiles. The trial began in June 2000 as a precursor to 60% recycling by 2007 for all of Essex’s councils.

Within the waste stream in Mercea Island, the success rates among different types of recyclables are even higher. According to the report, more than three quarters of organic waste, cans and glass bottles are collected for composting or recycling, with the weight of glass and cans being collected almost at the limit of that available in the waste stream.

The success of the Mersea Island project is the result of a number of key factors that are identified in the report as being:

  • the weekly collection of recyclables, including green waste, on the same day as refuse collection, which has reduced confusion, and consequently cut down on contamination problems;
  • the collection of a wide range of materials;
  • an intensive and targeted publicity campaign;
  • a dedicated recycling officer; and
  • a previously high level of public participation and awareness of recycling.

The scheme also still uses ‘bring’ recycling banks for opportunistic recycling, as well as a permanent civic amenity and recycling centre which is open six days a week for householders to dispose of bulky waste, car batteries, engine oil, white goods, scrap metal, timber, soil, and other recyclables. Already, 59% of all waste delivered to the site is being diverted from landfill. Residents have also been given free home composters, which have been taken up by 41% of the population.

The report also shows that recycling is possible in areas with much higher population densities, such as in the London Borough of Sutton, where there is a 44% recycling rate. As well as a bi-weekly curb-side collection of recyclable waste, and other more traditional initiatives, the council also runs an ‘adopt-a-bank’ programme. This scheme is designed to encourage neighbourhood involvement, and uses community groups which take on the upkeep of a ‘bring’ site, keeping it litter free and informing the council when serious repair work is needed. In return, the caretakers are paid £6.50 per tonne of paper and glass, and has allowed the number of neighbourhood recycling sites to increase from just 32 at the start of the scheme to 186, with 140 registered ‘adopt-a-bank’ community groups.

According to the report, the Borough has a 99% level of participation in recycling, although, particularly in some disadvantaged areas, there is a problem of contamination resulting from confusion over the weekly rotation between recyclable and non-recyclable materials being collected from homes.

The other 13 model recycling schemes were: Wealden District Council (53%), Daventry District Council (36%), Bournemouth Borough Council (31%), Bath and North East Somerset (27%), Poole Borough Council (26%), Dorset County Council (26%), St Edmundsbury Borough Council (23%), London Borough of Hounslow (18%), Bristol City Council Unitary Authority (13%), Brighton and Hove Unitary Authority (11%), Powys County Council (9%), bulky household waste in Liverpool, and Gwynedd County Council.

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