Consistency in recycling across the country

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Councils in East Sussex have raised objections to the some of the Government proposals on waste and recycling.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are consulting councils in relation to the Environment Bill 2021, a piece of legislation currently going through parliament intended to bring in new environmental protections.

As part of the wider bill, the Government is looking to standardise waste and recycling collections across the country by the end of 2023.

These proposals were discussed on Friday (2nd July) by the Joint Waste and Recycling Committee, the group responsible for overseeing the joint waste contract between Hastings, Rother and Wealden councils.

While the committee did not disagree with all the proposals put forward on waste collections, there were several which saw concerns raised.

These included making garden waste collections free for residents, for councils to introduce separate food waste collections and for Tetra Pak cartons to be recyclable across the country.

The committee heard how there were a number of practical concerns around each of these proposals as well as the likelihood of a significant impact on the cost of waste collections.

In Wealden at present households that opt into the garden waste scheme are charged of £55 per bin.

Another East Sussex council, Lewes, already collects food waste in a separate caddy, and the waste is taken to the facility in Whitesmith between Uckfield and Hailsham, where garden waste is taken for composting.

Tetra Paks and similar cartons are made from a complex mix of materials (cardboard, plastic and foil). They are no longer collected as part of the curb side in scheme in Wealden, and are currently sent with other non-recyclables to the incinerator in Newhaven. It was mentioned during the meeting that there is only one Tetra Pak recycling plant in the UK – and it was argued that the environmental impact of collecting, sorting and transporting cartons to Yorkshire needs to be factored into the equation.

The committee was keen to stress how some of the objections were nuanced; particularity around areas such as separate food waste collections, where it considered the environmental drawbacks narrowly outweighed the benefits.

Speaking about the garden waste collections, Hastings councillor Peter Chowney (Lab) said:

Collecting garden waste free simply discourages people from home composting.

Home composting is zero carbon and as soon as you start collecting and lugging it off somewhere else you have that contribution of fossil fuels. It is worse than home composting.

I would add that this is all going to be paid for somehow. Whether by the government subsidising councils or by councils themselves, it is all paid by taxpayer money.

It simply means that people who live in flats and don’t have gardens, who generally tend to be poorer overall subsidising richer people. I think it is retrograde step, both in socio-economic ways and climate change ways as well.

Cllr Chowney, Hastings

Similar views were raised by Rother councillor Eleanor Kirby-Green (Con), who said:

People who have the benefit of a garden, at the moment we charge them.

I don’t think people in flats, who don’t have the benefit of a garden, should be subsidising garden waste collections. It would cost the council an awful lot of money if we started giving free garden waste.

Regarding the food [waste collections] it is exactly the same point. In actual fact, if you are going to send more lorries out to collect the food waste, I’m not sure what the benefit is.

Cllr Kirby-Green, Rother

The meeting was the first one to be held since Wealden District Council took over the administration of the committee from Rother.

Wealden Cllr Roy Galley (Con) expressed his concerns about the costs of introducing potentially two new services for free. In order to “grab attention” he proposed that the Partnership, and individual councils, should write to their MPs and the Minister to set-out their concerns.

Despite this, the committee also resolved to begin planning for the financial implications of making changes by 2023.

Joint Waste Partnership Manager Madeleine Gorman said:

All of these changes will have significant financial implications for each of the partner councils and indeed, potentially, the contract.

As a joint waste group, we will need the support of our finance colleagues and resources to diligently assess what those financial impacts will be in due course and make sure we are prepared for when the changes need to be implemented.

Joint Waste Partnership Manager
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