Barking and Dagenham households urged to recycle with care as countries clamp down on waste
- Credit: Photo: Arnaud Stephenson
Households have been urged to recycle with more care as countries dealing with our rubbish get tough on waste.
Much of Barking and Dagenham’s recycling gets shipped outside the UK where it is transformed into other stuff.
A recent poll by the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed that at least 20 per cent of councils were under pressure as a result of new restrictions from countries including China on certain plastics and paper.
Some councils who have been most affected warn their recycling costs have increased by £500,000 on average over the last year as a result of the restrictions.
This is due in part to increased costs for getting materials ready for recycling. The fee charged to councils to process materials picked up from kerbside collections at recovery facilities is said to have increased from £15 to £22 per tonne over the last year, according to the LGA.
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Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s environment spokesman, said: “It’s clear that the ban by China on imported waste, which could soon be introduced by other countries, could have a marked impact on councils’ ability to recycle.
“It’s essential that the government provides support to help councils offset the loss of income they face as a result of the ban and encourage manufacturers to use more recyclable materials.”
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Barking and Dagenham Council collects recyclable waste that can be turned into new materials before delivering it to the East London Waste Authority (ELWA) – responsible for its treatment.
ELWA – which takes the borough’s waste along with Havering’s, Newham’s and Redbridge’s – has a long-term contract in place which it says protects Barking and Dagenham taxpayers from changes in costs.
In total, 92pc of waste delivered to ELWA in 2017/18 was diverted from landfill, it said.
But an ELWA spokesman raised one worry emerging from the developments: “Our concern with the China situation is more about recycling performance.”
He explained the UK waste industry and other countries importing recyclable waste were demanding lower levels of contamination, meaning fewer incorrect and unwashed items mixed in with the loads of recycling they receive.
What the industry had accepted in the past was now being rejected.
“It is important that we work with Barking and Dagenham Council and residents to ensure only items that will be recycled are put out for collection,” he said.
Neighbouring Redbridge was held up by ELWA as being better able to withstand recent pressures because its recycling is generally clean, easy to sort and focused on three main types of plastic.
While treatment firm bosses called on households to recycle with care, a growing chorus of voices has been urging businesses to step up.
Manufacturers are being called on more and more to pay towards the cost of recycling with the LGA and ELWA backing the move to varying degrees.
Cllr Tett said: “Councils want manufacturers to play their part in the battle against unnecessary and unrecyclable waste.
“We are keen to get around the table with them to reduce the amount of material entering the environment which can’t be recycled.”
The comment followed a three-month ban by Malaysia on importing unrecyclable plastic – such as black, microwave meal trays – with Vietnam looking into banning scrap plastics as well.
“With the markets to sell unrecyclable material shrinking, it is essential that this is tackled as soon as possible,” Cllr Tett added.
Manufacturers are being targeted to do more to improve the situation.
The LGA complained as far back as 2013 that producers weren’t paying enough towards recycling costs.
Campaigners argue that getting firms to pay for the final disposal of waste would encourage them to make products which are as reusable or recyclable as possible.
The government is set to publish its waste plans later this year.
ELWA’s spokesman said: “We are looking forward to the government’s resources and waste strategy which is expected to contain measures that will change the balance of costs between producers and local authorities.”