Clash over PFI deal after campaigners warn council could miss recycling target
PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 June 2018 | UPDATED: 07:18 15 June 2018
A councillor has slammed a waste management deal after campaigners warned recycling targets will be missed if the council doesn’t get more government money.
The attack came after Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) figures revealed local authorities were way off the 50per cent target set by the European Union for 2020 for turning household rubbish into re-usable materials.
In Redbridge just over 27pc of household waste was recycled last year. That compares to 37pc in Havering and 14pc in Newham – the lowest rate in London.
The borough recycling most last year was Bexley on 53pc.
The East London Waste Authority (Elwa) carries out waste disposal for Redbridge.
The council’s civic pride chief Cllr John Howard said: “The expensive and inflexible PFI deal central government signed with Elwa has been an obstacle to the recycling performance of east London boroughs.
“Nonetheless, we are totally committed to increasing our recycling rates and are producing a new waste strategy, which will be published later this year, to help us do just that.”
Redbridge is bringing waste collections back in-house in a bid to improve its waste and recycling service. Cllr Howard said permission to continue Redbridge’s landlord licensing scheme will see improved waste and recycling collections from private rented properties.
The council aims to increase recycling to 50pc by 2022.
Ian Pirie, of green campaign group Friends of the Earth, said one of the things stopping the council meeting the target is the number of people living in flats and tower blocks where recycling facilities aren’t easily available.
The retired University of East London lecturer saluted the work TV presenter David Attenborough did to highlight the danger of plastic waste in the BBC series Blue Planet.
“He’s done what it would take us 10 years to achieve,” Mr Pirie said.
But he added the priority should be to stop producing so much plastic.
“We buy and waste too much,” he said. “The situation is improving slowly, but the trouble is we tend not to take drastic steps until something dreadful happens. It’s sad but the process of bringing about change is usually slow unless we run into a crisis.”
The council aims to reduce household waste by 6pc year on year.
Ed Tombs – a programme manager at waste prevention organisation the London Community Resource Network – said the supermarket plastic bag charge was better than recycling because it reduced the number wasted.
On recycling, he said: “The challenge in London is to make recycling easier than chucking stuff in the bin.”
He argued more waste would be recycled if each household put rubbish into the same bin for it to be separated out after collection.
Charles Craft of Better Reuse – a company that helps make sure bulky waste is used again rather than thrown away – warned councils won’t meet the target. He said they face an uphill battle with people moving in and out of boroughs making it harder to engage with a constantly changing population. Money was also a big issue.
“How can a council hope to achieve targets when its funding has been cut to ribbons?” he asked.
He explained it was cheaper for councils to send waste to be incinerated or to landfill sites than to recycle it.
“If anyone came up with an innovative idea to recycle 10 years ago they might have got support, but not now,” he said.
He argued instead that with councils strapped for cash manufacturers should be required by law to take responsibility for what happens to products once they are disposed of so more are reused or recycled.
A Defra spokesman said: “We acknowledge the effort of local authorities and residents wanting to recycle more. We want to see further improvements in recycling and to maximise the amount of waste collected for recycling. That is why we are funding the Waste and Resources Action Programme to support local authorities to improve recycling performance across the country.”