Collaboration and innovation can deliver recycling success story



With an announcement due imminently about the Government’s new “Simpler Recycling” policy, Neil Grundon, chairman of Grundon Waste Management, hopes it will pave the way for more partnerships between local authorities and the waste sector.

What a couple of weeks it’s been on the recycling front. We went from RWM, where someone was heard wondering out loud if anyone from Government was listening to our senior leaders’ discussion; to the rather sudden news that No. 10’s mooted recycling policy had been thrown out with the bathwater alongside a host of other net zero commitments.

So where does that leave our industry?

Much has been made of the demise of the seven recycling bins recycling strategy that either was (or wasn’t) part of the future plan. In fact, as far back as 2021, the Government announced the consultation “Consistency in Household and Business Recycling in England”, which talked of standardising kerbside waste collections across England by 2023/24. Given we are almost in the fourth quarter of 2023, we all know that didn’t happen.

Plans at the time were to consider having separate bins for dry recyclables – glass, metal, plastic, paper and card – and bins for garden waste, food waste and non-recyclables, which adds up to the magnificent seven of many headlines.

The latest development (unless it changes in the meantime) is expected to see Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey introduce a “Simpler Recycling” programme. Apparently, it will ensure all homes in England recycle the same materials and there’s no need for these to be separated in the home.

That sounds to me a lot like a rehash of the old chestnut of kerbside sorting vs sorting at Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs).

On the plus side, there’s no more “top-down” approach and I hope that when the scheme is finally announced, Ms Coffey will simply say “this is the list of materials you need to collect”.

Our shopping list may not be her shopping list but, like any home delivery these days, I’d like to think we can accommodate a few replacement items.

After all, any decision (and guidance) is better than the policy vacuum we’ve been operating in these past couple of years.

Knowing what we’re going to be putting through our MRFs in the years to come means we can invest and retool with positivity, and I also think it will be good for attracting finance into the wider waste sector.

If private companies have the investment pots available, then why not work together to develop waste facilities.

Something else I would like to think this plan will encourage is greater collaboration between the public and private sectors.

We all know local authorities are struggling with the cost of providing services, so let’s think logically. If private companies have the investment pots available, then why not work together to develop waste facilities to serve the local communities that councils know so well?

It’s something we achieved very successfully with our MRF site at Leatherhead, Surrey, a partnership between ourselves and Mole Valley District Council.

Another example is Sherbourne Recycling, a company established by and wholly owned by eight local authorities, which has seen the development of a brand new MRF near Coventry.

Both schemes were born out of the spirit of innovation, about finding new ways to solve problems on the ground, as opposed to solutions being determined by Whitehall.

I know some local authorities are happy to talk to private companies, others less so.

I know some local authorities are happy to talk to private companies, others less so. I was encouraged, however, to read of a recent discussion at a District Councils’ Network (DCN) round table, which touched on how enhanced cooperation between districts and the private sector is making new services possible.

The chairman of the DCN has reiterated that “district councils are passionate about improving waste collection, boosting recycling rates and enhancing the environment….” all of which is music to our ears.

Let us take that enthusiasm and knowledge from councils about what suits their communities best – be it town or countryside – and combine it with our industry expertise to really make a difference.

Together, I believe forging new private/public partnerships will enable us all to rise to the challenges of the Simpler Recycling programme – whatever it may bring.

Our door is always open.

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