Waste & Recycling – Review of the Year 2008
It was a confusing year for the future of pay-as-you-throw schemes.
On the one hand, Government seemed swayed by the apparent public opposition to such schemes and the tabloid scare stories about the dreaded bin tax and the ‘bug in your bin’ that would track individuals’ waste habits.
On the other, Defra kept on plugging away at the idea with trials up and down the country.
The situation remained as clear as mud, with the then-new PM Gordon Brown saying there would be no bin tax while his people said he wouldn’t trade unpopular measures to manage waste in a more sustainable way for a boost in the polls.
While elsewhere in Europe people seemed to be getting to grips with the idea of recycling old electrical goods, here in the UK wee continued to struggle with WEEE.
It took us longer than most to get the EU directive on waste electronics onto our statute books, and a year later, most Brits are apparently still putting our old gizmos and gadgets straight into the bin.
According to a poll carried out by retailer Comet in the summer, two thirds admitted throwing the odd device out with the rest of their rubbish, while one in six said it had never occurred to them to recycle waste electronics or electrical goods.
Meanwhile, the House of Lords woke up to the fact that waste does not just come from households, with its science committee advising government to shift its priorities from municipal waste towards tackling commercial and industrial waste.
The train of thought went that as the private sector produces more waste than householders, more should be being done in this area, with suggestions of variable VAT rates on products to take into account how durable, recyclable and generally wasteful of resources they were.
In a similar vein, a series of surveys, totally independently of one another, all showed that while more people were recycling more at home, they tend to leave their good habits at home and toss stuff straight in the bin while at work or out and about.
Government took this as a sign that recycling messages were working and we were winning the battle on one front – and it was time to focus on a new one.
Enter Recycle on the Go, the new government initiative to get more recycling bins in our streets and parks in an effort to make it second nature for the public to put waste in the right bin – just as they do in many other parts of Europe.
There were some promising statistics on household waste – in England, for example, the overall tonnage of waste being collected fell by the fastest rate in five years while Wales managed to push its municipal recycling rates above 30% for the first time.
Hi tech bins seemed to be all the rage in London, with bomb-proof bins equipped with video screens to relay all the latest business news planned for the city’s financial quarter and (almost) magical bins that suck away your waste through a network of underground tubes coming online in the UK for the first time as part of a mega-development at Wembley.
And not for the first time, a tortoise cheated death after being processed at a recycling plant. While previous daredevil tortoises have risen to celebrity for their close encounters with an assortment shredding and crushing equipment, this little fella was already rubbing shoulders with the (fairly) famous, as a pet of Gavin and Stacey star Ruth Jones.