Headlines: October 13th, 2004

Ambitious new recycling targets for local authorities are among the recommendations in a report out today. It also claims that government policy is undermining the UK’s efforts to improve its poor recycling record.”Wasted Opportunities” has been produced by sustainable development charity Forum for the Future for the liquid food packaging company Tetra Pak and will be launched at a seminar in Westminster for policy makers, local authorities and other stakeholders.

The report examines why levels of recycling of packaging such as plastic bottles, liquid cartons and aluminium cans are so low. It says weight-based targets implemented by the Government in line with the EU’s Packaging Directive are an important factor. They have created a bias towards the recycling of heavy materials like glass and newspaper even though there are inadequate markets for them. The report points to a green glass ‘mountain’ with one in three recovered green glass bottles being exported last year while the UK aluminium recycling industry needed imports from Europe to reach capacity.

It calls for stakeholders to develop a shared vision on packaging, clarifying the role of recycling and giving a clearer framework to policymakers. Specifically it recommends ambitious material-based targets for local authorities, which should be recycling 50 percent of municipal waste by 2010 and 70 percent by 2015. Material being recycled should be that which provides the greatest benefits from recycling. It also wants councils to go further than the present commitment to a separate collection of at least two types of recyclable materials by 2010. It calls for the separate collection of dry recyclables by 2010 and the introduction of doorstep collection of organic waste where composting is not feasible. Local authorities, the authors say, should be given the power to introduce variable charging of households, according to the amount of waste they produce as a real incentive to recycling.

“Wasted Opportunities” also urges the government to bring in landfill bans for materials that can be recycled or composted where an infrastructure is in place or can be developed within five years. The government is also urged to change the landfill tax into a waste disposal tax making landfill and incineration the most expensive disposal options. The report says UK landfill tax needs to be in line with the European average by 2008.

Jonathon Porritt, Programme Director of Forum for the Future and Chairman of UK Sustainable Development Commission, said, “We welcome the new Government campaign to make recycling more appealing to the public but there is a strong risk of this good work being undermined if policy isn’t rooted in a real understanding of sustainability and driven by the need to get maximum value from packaging materials with the lowest impact on the environment. Exporting recovered bottles as far as China is not a sustainable solution.”