19 July 2019 by Lucy Pegg

Worthing councillor takes on recycling challenge

SPECIAL REPORT: Local authorities are keen to increase recycling rates – but Worthing borough councillor Edward Crouch has taken a more personal approach than most.

Cllr Crouch, who is the council’s Executive Member for Digital & Environmental Services, set himself a challenge, aiming to meet Adur and Worthing’s target by recycling at least 50% of his household waste and prove that it was possible to reduce the amount of rubbish being sent to landfill.

Cllr Edward Crouch clearing up waste in Worthing

He said the challenge had made him much more aware of how much waste he and his partner create. Since December Cllr Crouch has been weighing his recycling and residual waste bins each week and publishing the results on Facebook.

Cllr Crouch said: “I started being really conscious, being really obsessive.

“It kind of showed what I thought, that I’m quite good at recycling but also that there are trends. If you go on holiday for a week there’s food waste.”

Action

Cllr Crouch, who is a Conservative councillor for the Marine ward in Worthing, is keen to see action from both central and local government, as well as members of the public.

“There should be a really strong message from government that you have recyclable or compostable packaging materials by default and you have to explain or justify why you can’t,” he said.

“It’s as antisocial as dropping litter, it’s not acceptable in this time to be wasteful.”

Edward Crouch, Worthing councillor

“If you are a manufacturer you should be responsible for the production right the way through to the disposal.”

He believes that if you want people to do something you have to remove the barriers in their way – but is also clear that individuals who don’t recycle need to change.

“It’s as antisocial as dropping litter, it’s not acceptable in this time to be wasteful.”

Recycling rate

Adur and Worthing’s current recycling rate is 36%, below the average for West Sussex. The councils do not currently offer food waste collections and 30% of general refuse comes from food.

Recycling is collected commingled via a wheeled bin, with materials including paper and card, metal cans and aerosols, plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays, cartons and glass bottles and jars accepted.

Cllr Crouch said he did not want to see organics collected in Adur and Worthing at present and saw plastic trays and “crinkly” plastic as the most problematic non-recyclables.

His challenge was inspired by a visit to Viridor’s Ford Materials Recovery Facility near Arundel and Cllr Crouch is keen for more people to take trips to the site.

He said: “I’m pushing for all schools in West Sussex to go. I don’t have children myself, but pester power is probably the best way to get parents moving.”

Cllr Crouch’s April recycling report

But the councillor has also come up with a high-tech solution to confusion over what can be recycled, having created a Facebook chat bot which tells users where to dispose of different materials.

He says about twenty people have been using the bot with a success rate of 60 to 70% – including one woman who spoke to the bot for around half an hour. The more the tool is used the more intelligent it becomes and when people ask about materials it does not recognise Cllr Crouch can add these to the system.

Fortnightly collection

Yet Cllr Crouch’s recycling success also come amidst local controversy, as Worthing and Adur councils move to fortnightly residual waste bin collections this summer (see letsrecycle.com story).

Cllr Crouch admitted that in past election campaigns he has applauded the local authority’s weekly collections – but now recognises that this cannot continue.

“We had to make a change and it was the right thing for the environment and for a balanced budget,” he explained.

“On social media people think the world is going to come to an end, but when we have a proper conversation people realise that they don’t need the fortnightly collection.”

He added that in times of council cuts people do struggle when they feel they are getting less but claimed that the average general waste bin is 35% empty.

The fortnightly collections will begin in September.

Related links
Worthing recycling Facebook chatbot

The LARAC Conference in the UK’s annual forum for local authority waste & recycling officers. Taking place across 2nd & 3rd October 2019 at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole, the conference welcomes more than 400 visitors including 270+ from local authorities from across the UK providing a mix of updates ranging from policy and strategic thinking to operational case studies. For event and ticketing details, please visit www.laracconference.co.uk

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