Without doubt the world is sinking under a deluge of waste.
Media concern appears to be focused – now anyway – on plastic in the oceans.
While this is very admirable and certainly needs to be addressed and sorted out
other problems with waste are sadly ignored or consigned to the back pages!
Indeed, there is very little discussion – if any – about how to reduce this
waste mountain and certainly nothing about improving recycling levels.
Sadly, the incidence of fly-tipping mountains is getting
bigger as is the cost of clearing them up. According to data released by the
Department for Environment, Farming & Rural Affairs (Defra) the discovery
of waste piles that are bigger than one lorry load increased by approximately
40% over the last year (14,430 from 10,120). To clear these waste piles has cost local
authorities £12.2million up from £9.9milion the previous year.
Additionally, Defra also claim that there has been an
increase in organised criminal gangs involved in the large-scale dumping of
This is not surprising as local councils are withdrawing
recycling services due to budgetary constraints and as some types of plastic
are becoming too expensive to process thus leading to more excess household
waste being illegally dumped.
The Chancellor promised £10million in his latest budget to
help councils pay for the clearance of waste mountains, including fly-tipping
sites and recycling waste tips. Though this is a substantial sum the costs to
reduce waste tips are considerable. For example, the UK’s largest recycling
mountain – on a disused airfield in North Killingholme, near Grimsby will cost
North Lincolnshire Council an estimated £6.3million to clear. This was caused
by the private recycling company going bankrupt six years ago.
Approximately 50% of
all UK household waste is recycled which is obviously a start but could more be
The village I live in – in the rolling Surrey countryside –
has on the face of it tried to aid and help people recycle. From the recycle
bins collected on a two-weekly basis – paper, cans, glass food etc. – to providing
in the two main car parks in the village a selection of recycle containers for
waste that cannot be put into the personal household recycle bins, for example,
blankets, cardboard, clothes and shoes. Finally, the council has provided a
village refuse site (just outside the village) to collect other types of refuse
for example electrical goods, batteries, wood, metal and garden waste.
On the face of it a sensible and welcome set of policy
initiatives. And yet further inspection proves that these policies could
certainly and quite easily be improved upon.
A closer inspection reveals that for example the containers
in both car parks are not only regularly full, but the village population often
must leave plastic bags full of potential recyclable items left by the side of
the containers. Indeed, over the last couple of months as I have been walking,
shopping in the village I have spoken to the various people trying – often
unsuccessfully – to put their potential recyclable waste in these containers.
Whilst appreciating this is a very ad hoc qualitative survey it has become very
apparent that while people are very keen to recycle, they are becoming
disillusioned with trying to recycle. An often-heard comment was ‘why bother’. A
further problem is that the village refuse tip is now only open on the weekend.
Quite simply though Councils have legal targets concerning
recycling – some of which require each council to collect at least two types of
recyclable waste and to push for recycling rates of at least 50% my local
Parish Council and the relevant County Council are struggling to develop
anything above the bare minimum.
My personal sustainability challenge is to try and change
I am suggesting that the recycle bins in the village car
parks be emptied on a regular basis and that the village refuse tip be opened
at least one day during the week as well as during the weekend.
This will not be easy to achieve I completely accept!!!
I have a couple of strategies:
- To locate and email/speak to our village
councillors to put pressure to try and change the current scenario.
- To utilise the village bulletin web page to
ascertain if other villagers are concerned and interested over this current
status and perhaps be willing to email/speak to local councillors to try and
change the current situation.
- Finally, with local elections coming soon (2nd
May) help the potential councillors who put recycling on their political
In conclusion, my fear is that
the current local councillors will agree that matters need to change and that
the various local councils are doing the bare minimum but will cite and I
suspect hide behind the ‘lack of financial resources’. Indeed, an initial
conversation with a local councillor produced exactly that response and
reminded me that only recently the Central Government had to bail out Surrey
County Council after it threatened to raise local rates substantially or make
draconian cuts in local services. The omens are not good! Time will tell!