ReFood is calling on district councils to implement uniform recycling collections in 2019, including separate ones for food waste, after proposals were rejected by the Local Government Association (LGA) earlier this year.
“The LGA’s decision was yet another disappointing blow,” said Philip Simpson, commercial director of ReFood. “Our national recycling rate continues to flatline, which is why we’re urging the Government to see sense and reconsider this as a priority.”
According to ReFood, the proposals, which were originally put forward by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, called on the Government to intervene and change the “barmy mess” of non-uniform local approaches into a nationally consistent service.
They were rejected by the LGA, which claimed that “eight out of ten people are happy with the way their local council collects rubbish”.
Mr Simpson explained: “Householders may be ‘happy’ with existing kerbside systems, but the reality is that these systems are unfit for purpose.”
The UK currently has 150 different collection schemes, ReFood says, with many local councils “locked” into long-term waste contracts. The LGA suggested that a move to a national system would be a ‘sensitive issue’ for these councils, many of whom would perceive it as handing over their powers to central government.
ReFood, however, points out that local authorities in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have all implemented some form of mandated national system, from which, the firm says, they are “already reaping financial and environmental benefits”.
“We have to learn from this best practice and stop putting our heads in the sand,” Mr Simpson said. “Local councils in England don’t offer the best solutions – they offer the cheapest. If we’re to stand any chance of meeting our strict recycling targets, we need to rethink collection uniformity.”
According to ReFood, food waste forms the majority of municipal waste collections, with UK households throwing away more than seven million tonnes every year. Currently 160 councils in the UK offer food waste collection and recycling services [Updated 11/12/2018 to correct original figure].
“Why send such a valuable resource to landfill?” Mr Simpson contuned. “At ReFood, we turn waste food into renewable energy and sustainable biofertiliser, which effectively closes the food supply chain and generates enough energy to power more than 55,000 homes nationwide.
“A uniform solution would work if we approached the transition correctly. Consumer polling and local council sensitivities aren’t adequate excuses either. Doing the right thing should always be the priority.”
Consistency in collections has been called for by WRAP – the Waste and Resources Action Programme – which has been working with councils to trial its consistency programme. Further clarity on consistency and separate food waste collections are expected in Defra’s forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.
However, it seems very unlikely that mandatory separate collections will be taken forward in the document, given the feedback from the Renewable Energy Association following its meeting with Defra earlier this year (see letsrecycle.com story).