Mixed reactions to Defra’s Simpler Recycling announcement


Simpler Recycling

There have been mixed reactions to the UK government’s Simpler Recycling announcement with CWIM describing it as “very disappointing” and SUEZ saying it feels like a “backward step”.

80% of respondents to a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation disagreed with a fortnightly residual cap. 

Recycling Minister Robbie Moore commented: “We all want to do our bit to increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill – but a patchwork of different bin collections across England means it can be hard to know what your council will accept.

“Our plans for Simpler Recycling will end that confusion: ensuring that the same set of materials will be collected regardless of where you live.”

Green Alliance calls announcement “bad news”

net zeroLibby Peake, head of resources at Green Alliance, said: “The government is making a political decision to push ahead with recycling reforms today, which go against global best practice. 

“They also contradict abundant evidence the government has collected on what a good recycling system would look like. 

“The changes would allow all dry recycling to be mixed together and for food and garden waste to be combined, and it would force councils to collect residual waste at least once a fortnight. This is bad news for the public, who want their efforts to recycle to count.

“It’s bad news for British recycling businesses who need high-quality material to use – the paper recycling industry is warning that paper recycling rates could fall by nearly 20 percentage points by 2030 because of increasing contamination. 

“And, of course, it’s bad news for the environment, as it will result in wasted resources, which we can’t afford. It simply shouldn’t be this hard to get recycling right.”

Another positive step forward, Biffa says

BiffaMichael Topham, Chief Executive Officer, Biffa, said: “Sustainable waste management is a key component of the UK’s net zero goals, and today’s announcement on the outcome of the Simpler Recycling consultation is another positive step forward. 

“Having clarity on timelines and what’s in scope is crucial for a seamless implementation of this more consistent approach to recycling across businesses and households in England. 

“We will be working closely with the government, local authorities, and businesses to implement these reforms which we hope will encourage behavioural change in the workplace and at home, reducing contamination and reigniting stalled recycling rates on the UK’s journey to net zero.”

NAWDO disappointed by Defra’s guidance

Simpler recyclingThe National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO) said is disappointed by the government’s guidance on the minimum fortnightly collection frequency for residual waste.

NAWDO said there is extensive evidence that proves three and four-weekly residual waste collections increase recycling and reduce the total volume of waste that households produce. 

The Association said the government’s position shows a disconnect with the waste hierarchy and is at odds with existing evidence.

NAWDO said it expects the decision will undermine the government’s target of halving non-recyclable (residual) waste by 2042, including the interim reduction target of 28% by January 2028.

Fortnightly collections feels like a backward step, Suez says

SUEZJohn Scanlon, chief executive officer for SUEZ Recycling and Recover UK, said: “The journey may have taken longer than we would have liked but today’s publication is another positive step towards all households in England being able to recycle their food waste and more of their packaging waste.

“That said, given a number of councils have successfully pioneered three weekly residual collection services, a requirement for councils to provide minimum fortnightly residual waste collections feels like a backward step.

“Evidence shows that reducing residual collection frequency encourages people to use the food and recycling collection services provided by their local council more consistently.

“In SUEZ’s own experience, three weekly residual waste collections, supported by reliable, frequent food and dry recycling collections, are clearly effective in boosting recycling rates.

“Restricting the options available to local authorities with high recycling ambitions whilst at the same time ‘actively encouraging’ more frequent residual collections and promoting a three bin collection system, risks jeopardising our ability to meet the recycling targets that are a key part of the UK’s net zero ambition.”

Local Government Association says policy would come with a “significant cost”

Local authoritiesIn its response to the government’s consultation, the Local Government Association (LGA) said the frequency of residual waste collections should be a local decision as councils are democratically accountable to their communities.  

The LGA said fortnightly residual waste collection would come at a significant cost and the money would have to be found from local budgets, adding to the financial pressures already facing councils.

Businesses are required to implement Simpler Recycling reforms, which is a year before households. The LGA said Defra must improve their understanding of how this will impact councils managing two timetables.

The Association said this will increase costs for local authorities and reduce the amount of time for procurement and contract negotiation. 

CIWM calls the government’s stance “very disappointing”

CIWMCIWM strongly urged the government to reverse the decision and allow local authorities to have the option of collecting residual waste on a three-weekly basis.

Lee Marshall, CIWM’s Director of Innovation and Technical Services, commented: “We hope that the relevant statutory instrument gets the Parliamentary time it needs so we can maintain momentum. 

“Ideally, though, we need the detail of the statutory guidance for local authorities to have the clarity they require to help them in planning and implementing the changes that are needed. 

“Clarification on what materials can be collected together is good and gives local authorities the freedom to choose the most appropriate and effective collection systems for their areas. 

“The stance on restricting options of residual frequency is, however, baffling given the overwhelming evidence that exists about how restricting residual reduces costs and increases recycling. 

“That is a point of contention and a missed opportunity to give local authorities a real behaviour change tool that is shown to increase recycling levels.”

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