Gloucester City Council has some good news on recycling - according to Sajid Patel.
Here. Sajid, the council's cabinet member for environment explains what the authority is doing about recycling:
Recycling – we’ve got a good story to tell
The Citizen’s Mike Wilkinson questioned in his “Inside Politics” column the performance of the City Council on recycling. It’s a fair question and a serious subject, but the rather frivolous nature of the column doesn’t do justice to this important issue.
Citizen readers will know the importance of recycling. We just can’t keep dumping more and more rubbish into landfill. It’s bad for the environment and, with ever-increasing landfill taxes, it doesn’t make sense financially either.
Over the last decade, we’ve come a long way. In 2004 our recycling rate was a measly 9% and most people had to travel to “bring” sites to recycle anything. Since then, we have introduced our kerbside collection scheme across the city and expanded it to include more and more materials.
We also introduced a garden waste collection scheme and then extended it across the whole of the city. Finally we introduced weekly food waste collection. This material gets processed in Dymock and converted into soil enhancer – removing a potential source of poisonous methane and making it more difficult for the seagulls to find food!
When we introduced the new refuse and recycling arrangements we set an ambitious target of 50% recycling. We came close to achieving that, but it is true that in recent times our recycling rate has fallen back. The latest figure is 36%. There are reasons for this and I’ll do my best to explain them.
As one of the difficult decisions we had to make to balance the books, we did introduce a charge for garden waste collection. Although we have an impressive 17,000 households signed up to the scheme, some have chosen other options including composting - the most environmentally-friendly method, but it doesn’t count towards our recycling figures.
There has been speculation that we will be increasing the £36 annual charge this year, but I can confirm that in 2014-15, there will not be any rise in this cost. The City Council used to run recycling “bring” sites at supermarkets, but now the foodstores concerned have taken over management of these sites themselves. So although we are used to seeing the skips of cardboard overflowing and the clothing banks full, none of that counts towards our figures. That alone could add several percentage points to our rates!
It’s also fair to say that habits are changing. I believe people waste less food now you can see it pile up in your brown bin. Responsible packaging by manufacturers also reduces the amount of material to deal with.
We’d like to, and plan to, do more, like collecting other materials like cardboard and aerosols from the doorstep, but our vehicles are already at capacity with what they collect. When we renew the fleet next year we will look to expand the range of what we pick up.
Comparisons with other districts are spurious. Not every council collects exactly the same materials. For example, Stroud doesn’t provide a garden or food waste recycling service and therefore its recycling rate is only 31%. It’s far easier to get higher figures in leafy suburbs like Cheltenham or rural areas like the Cotswolds where there is plenty of room to store recyclable materials than it is in urban Gloucester. And it’s less of a challenge to recycle when you have a settled community rather than the transient population in some parts of Gloucester. Education about waste issues is also more difficult when you have over 100 different languages spoken in the city!
Blocks of flats also present us with issues and we have worked with residents and landlords to provide more convenient methods for them to recycle. In fact a recent project in Winneycroft Lane, Matson showed how residents are keen to work with us to recycle more.
Recycling is important, but let’s not forget that it is only the third level in the waste hierarchy – it is more environmentally-friendly to reduce (i.e. not create the waste in the first place) or reuse it. The best measure is the amount of waste sent to landfill and, using this test, we are heading in generally the right direction. We should be proud of how we have transformed our performance in recycling over the last decade. There is much more we can do – and we can only achieve more in partnership with our residents. I want to see us collect a wider range of materials when our vehicles allow and I want to see wider participation in recycling.
Comparing one council’s figures with another doesn’t always tell the full story. I hope The Citizen will work with us to deal with the increasing challenges of managing our waste in the future.
Councillor Sajid Patel, Cabinet Member for the Environment, Gloucester City Council