Government waste review recycles old ideas and dumps ambition
14 June 2011
The Government's waste review displays an embarrassing lack of new ideas and ambition, and will not help deliver the 'zero waste economy' the Government claims it is aiming for, Friends of the Earth said today.
The green campaigning charity welcomed the abandoning of Government attempts to bully councils into running weekly bin rounds and backed cash incentives for weekly food waste collection, but attacked the Government for failing to show any real commitment to slash residual 'black bag' waste - rubbish that is sent for incineration or landfill. Friends of the Earth is calling for black bag waste to be halved by 2020.
Friends of the Earth's waste campaigner Julian Kirby said:
"The Government has spent a year reviewing its approach to rubbish - at vast public expense - and all it's managed to do is reduce its ambition, recycle old ideas and dump its commitment to a zero waste economy.
"Ministers should be helping cut waste and boost recycling - but they've produced a half-hearted document that takes waste policy back in time.
"Cash-strapped councils will be relieved Ministers have ditched ludicrous proposals to force them to provide weekly bin rounds - fortnightly collections are cheaper, encourage recycling and are popular with householders.
"The roll-out of weekly food waste pick-ups will help make use of the nation's food scraps - something we've been backing for many years.
"We can't afford to keep burying and burning our waste - David Cameron should sort out this mess with a goal to halve the rubbish England throws away by the end of the decade."
Notes to editors
1. A Friends of the Earth briefing ahead of the Waste Review is available at: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/black_bag_waste_09052011.html
2. Some of the good ideas that are included in the Review are dated hand-me-downs that we should be building on rather than reverting back to. These include
- the voluntary commitment for councils on waste services - a WRAP / LGA agreement has existed since 2009, to which 111 councils are already signed up
- a consultation on banning the landfilling of wood, with a review of the banning of landfilling other recyclable materials - the previous government's consultation on landfill bans recommended banning a range of materials. It was published in summer 2010, after years of preparatory research and consultation. The newly elected Coalition said at that publication of the consultation results that it was not "minded" to implement landfill bans, even as the Welsh Assembly Government declared its desire to press ahead with them.
- The household waste recycling target remains the 50% EU minimum that the last Government signed up to but was considering raising. Wales, Scotland and most recently Northern Ireland have pledged to go further.
- a pledge to raise packaging recovery targets, which had been rising consistently every year until the Coalition Government stalled them for the first time in years in 2010.
3. Friends of the Earth called for the review to set a goal to halve residual 'black bag' waste by 2020, with a similar ambition for business waste. This should be achieved through a combination of increased recycling, waste prevention and re-use - rather than simply focussing on recycling. The call is backed by a number of businesses, councils, organisations and networks, including Unilever, Sainsbury's, B&Q, Coca Cola Enterprises, the Federation of Small Businesses, WWF-UK and the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority.
4. Friends of the Earth also called for the Waste Review to include:
- An end to Government attempts to force councils into providing weekly bin collections. Fortnightly bin rounds are hygienic, cheaper to run and lead to more materials being recycled - provided they are accompanied by decent recycling schemes and weekly food waste collections;
- Waste incineration to be phased out, and the end to the burning and landfilling of recyclable materials;
- Greater effort - at local, UK and EU level - to prevent waste through improved product design and producer responsibility;
- Support for business waste collection schemes, including a requirement on waste companies to offer cost effective recycling services;
- High quality recycling collection and processing, with a preference for kerbside separation of waste.
5. Councils have been coming under relentless pressure from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to end fortnightly waste collection schemes in favour of weekly ones. However, estimates suggest this could cost councils £530m over four years, and cut England's recycling rate by five per cent:
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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust
Last modified: Jun 2011