For example, the strategy reckons we'll all be recycling 70% of our waste by 2030...but the Essex average at the moment is just 49.8% and our own Chelmsford district languishes 183rd in the country at 41%*. It's only been going up 0.2% a year, so 70% in five years, a near doubling, you might think is pretty ambitious.
To achieve this you think they'd have really well thought out plans, perhaps yearly targets too, but in our analysis we couldn't find much more than warm words like: "we will support business to deliver reuse and repair services…we will support communities to deliver local reuse and repair initiatives…we’ll develop and deliver information and activities to help and inspire residents to reuse and repair more".
Are these things really going to do more to increase recycling than at any point since the 1990s?
Pretty much all of the above are being tried extensively already.
But have you seen any effort by our Household Recycling centres to inspire people to re-use and re-purpose their waste? Electrical items which presumably could be repurposed are just sat in open air cages, with bad weather rendering anything salvageable useless. Let alone a booking system which puts up barriers to recycling which we've mentioned before.
There is also precious little information out there on what happens to our recycling to inspire us to do more at Recycling Centres or issued by our local authorities. If there was a bit more information that said our recycling didn't end up being exported to developing countries, or going to landfill, and that it did actual good, many of us would be eager to do even more, but there's often just an information vacuum.
The strategy also talks about:
Recovery: Mentions Energy From Waste a lot but no evidence this can achieve the kind of numbers they need. Doesn’t give any examples of where this can help reduce to zero like they are saying.
Recycling Centre: “work together to make the network of recycling centres, waste transfer stations and depots as efficient as possible”….what does that mean? We need more HCRW’s that recycle more types of waste, with less barriers like booking systems, more capacity. The 'means' of achieving re-use are woefully inadequate. There are no 're-use' facilities at HCRWs at the moment and you get in trouble for taking anything away to re-use. There aren't even any signs at typical HCRWs encouraging recycling or explaining where the recycling goes or what part residents play in recycling. Many existing HCRWs are just a haphazard selection of containers, often at height, poorly arranged and designed, especially for people with accessibility issues and now there is an onerous booking system on top, totally unnecessary in the case of South Woodham.
Lobbying: The strategy says Essex authorities “will lobby government to accelerate a repair and reuse culture within business.” This is great but where is the evidence that this will make a difference? Lobbying government difficult and almost irrelevant given political turbulence and a government which has declared a ‘war on green’ and is pushing back carbon targets, saying there’s no need for a national recycling system etc. It reads of a slight desperation of realizing that instead of empowering Local Authorities over the years or showing leadership, the government has actually taken away powers from them, such as the ability to combine in regional partnerships and so on.
Cost: Where are the costings? Getting from 41% to 70% is unlikely to be free. Where is the honest assessment of how much this is all going to cost at a time many councils are facing extreme financial challenges from years of Government cuts. Where is the extra money coming from?
The strategy could also have explored ideas like providing recycling incentives like deposit return schemes, discounts off council tax or other 'nudge' tactics, but the strategy's authors seem to think a bit more Facebook advertising and leaflets is going to get us to increase recycling by more in 5 years than it has in 30. So at the SWFCTA we welcome the ambition but we are disappointed by the lack of an action plan on how to reach it. We think recycling should be made easier, not harder, with booking systems or potentially charging people for garden waste bins and the like. We hope this strategy isn't a dead duck but we fear it might be.Some of those other targets by the way, include Zero Waste by 2055, Zero Waste to Landfill by 2030 and reducing waste by 10% by 2035. All great ambitions. Shame it's not clear how we can get there.
So do have a read, form your own view and respond to the consultation if you can by 23 November, you can find it here: Essex Recycling Consultation And let us know what you think below too.
AN APPEAL - We are a small local residents’ party which is fighting for a better deal for SWF. We are always looking for new members, from all backgrounds, to help us look into matters which affect our town and win in local elections. (NB: We don't fight national elections and our members vote for who they like at Westminster.)
*figures from Lets Recycle.co.uk