Household rubbish recycling virtually stagnant

Sue Kinsey By: Sue Kinsey
Date posted: 12 December 2018

Depending on how you look at the figures, recycling rates in England either rose a derisory 0.3% in 2017 (calendar year) or dropped 0.3% (financial year). Either way it’s around a 1 percentage point change in five years, according to data from the Environment Department (Defra). And that, by anybody’s reckoning, is rubbish.

These figures aren’t good news for those who claim, quite patronisingly, that all that’s needed to increase recycling is to ‘educate’ the public. Despite years of recycling and anti- littering ‘education’ recycling rates are now shown to have stagnated. Most of the big increases in the early years were because we basically started from zero.

We really need to rethink how we approach the problem - starting at the top of the chain by producing less waste in the first place.

DRS Bottle Art

In terms of the basic waste hierarchy recycling comes after reduce and reuse, yet the first two steps hardly get a look in. It’s likely that producers actually don’t want to reduce the single- use plastic products they sell because that will affect their bottom line and require fresh investment and new ideas. It’s much easier for them to blame the public for not recycling rather than taking responsibility themselves for the continuing creation of single –use products that are the ultimate product in our throwaway culture.

If we look at a lot of the single use products in use today it’s actually quite easy to see how they could be replaced by items that would be used time and time again saving on energy, production costs and resources – you won’t believe it but some places have replaced plastic stirrers with metal spoons. I know! What goes around comes around.

Bottles recycled

It’s quite scandalous that in the UK, packaging producers – that’s everything from sweet wrappers to bottles and cans, pay a paltry 10% of the costs towards the collection, disposal and recycling of their products with us, as tax payers, picking up the other 90%. In most other EU countries this situation is the other way round.

These figures do a huge favour to our call for an inclusive, comprehensive Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for all drinks bottle and cans. These systems work in other countries – with no fuss and no rioting on the streets. You buy your drink, you drink it, you return the bottle or can and you get your deposit back. It’s such a simple idea it’s inconceivable that anyone would think it’s not the answer to cutting down on our drinks waste.

DRS gives what was once perceived as rubbish a value. The carrier bag charges have shown that a small financial incentive can have almost overnight results and in other countries with DRS recycling rates for bottles and cans are around 90%.

It’s an unsexy name for a sexy little system - drink, return, save! It’ll make recycling worth it.