Local authority recycling officers are seeking an element of flexibility within government plans to provide a consistent recycling service across England.
This is among the messages within the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) response to Defra’s consultation on improving recycling collection consistency, which closed this week.
Members of LARAC have expressed “broad support” for large parts of the consultation. But, the Association has claimed that consistent collections are “pointless” without suitable end markets to drive demand for material collected from the kerbside.
Defra’s proposals centre on plans for councils to collect a ‘core’ set of dry recyclable materials, alongside a separate weekly food waste collection and free collection of garden waste.
The core materials would include glass bottles and containers; paper and card; plastic bottles; detergent, shampoo and cleaning products; plastic pots tubs and trays; and, steel and aluminium tins and cans.
Responding to the consultation, LARAC has voiced concerns about the “potentially prescriptive nature” of proposals on collection systems.
This includes the potential for statutory guidance on minimum service standards for recycling and waste collections which could cover issues such as collection frequency.
In its consultation response, LARAC says that although statutory guidance could assist with stable longer-term planning by ‘minimising political influences with changes in elections’, it would require “reassurance that the standards would allow for some flexibility, such as allowing for less than fortnightly collections where appropriate, adapting to local circumstances” for the measure to gain full support.
And, on collection methodology, LARAC adds that quality materials are “currently being provided through existing collection systems”, with the organisation further advocating systems designed for ‘local circumstances’ that deliver materials to available end markets.
A further sticking point for LARAC in the proposals is for local authorities to be mandated to offer free garden waste collections, which it says its members have “strongly opposed”. LARAC said its members believed that charged for garden waste services will still “contribute strongly” to a 65% recycling rate.
On food waste collections, LARAC said it supports the proposal, but is keen to hear how the government intends to fund the measure.
“There was a very strong message from our members that nationwide free garden waste was a backwards step.”Carole Taylor
Carole Taylor, chair of LARAC, said: “There was a very strong message from our members that nationwide free garden waste was a backwards step. Our members told us that garden waste is not going in the residual bin and that they are achieving good returns through charged for systems. By allowing charges it frees up central funding to support other aspects of the collections system. Food waste collections are one area where that funding could be used, with local authorities supportive of fully funded food waste collections.”
LARAC has also questioned the value of adopting standard bin colours against the likely cost and the “long time” it will take to implement.
A proposed increase in funding for national communications is welcomed and LARAC said it wants to see mandated use of OPRL on packaging which would help local campaigns funded through the EPR system.