Headlines: February 15th, 2006

Council leaders have welcomed proposals that will see local authorities playing a greater strategic role in increasing recycling of business waste. They are calling for adequate funding to achieve recycling targets, a programme for all councils to learn from the best – and groundbreaking ways of tackling waste such as parents to opt for reusable nappies rather than disposables.The Local Government Association has reacted to government proposals for increased recycling by pointing to the achievements already made by a number of councils. Meanwhile environmental campaigners have urged the government to drop what they call ‘its love affair with municipal waste incinerators.

New government proposals envisage a greater strategic role for local authorities in delivering a ‘resource’ economy, which could mean offering advice to local businesses and facilitating business waste recycling schemes, stimulating markets for recycled goods and encouraging more recycling collection points in shopping centres, workplaces and schools. Other ideas would see the development of a recycling culture making it part of everyday activities at home, at work and during leisure. There would be more ambitious recycling and composting targets for household waste, putting it at 40 per cent by 2010 and 50 per cent a decade later.

The government also wants to see the recovery of more resources from waste from businesses and the use of new investment to recover energy from waste as an alternative to landfill, but not at the expense of waste prevention and recycling.

The chair of the LGA’s Environment Board, Councillor David Sparks, said many local authorities were already working with residents to ensure more than half of household waste was recycled and they were working with business. “Government’s proposals to recycle 40 per cent of household waste by 2010 are a huge step in the right direction. The proposed statutory minimum for local authorities of 25 per cent gives a good clear signal. Many, if not most, councils have their own local targets which are higher than 40 per cent. However many will also find reaching 25 per cent difficult and councils must have adequate funding and support to achieve ambitious recycling rates,” he added.

The LGA also came up with its own groundbreaking idea for cutting waste by reducing the reliance on disposable nappies. A number of authorities have trialled a scheme under which people with newborn babies are paid up to 80 pounds to use real nappies. More councils are to be encouraged to adopt the idea. Nearly 3 billion nappies are thrown away in the UK every year and 90 per cent of them end up in landfill, costing councils hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.

In a separate move Friends of the Earth has highlighted plans for 22 new municipal waste incinerators in England and has called on the Government to end its love affair with incineration. FoE Waste and Resource Campaigner Anna Watson said, “The Government is trying to sell incinerators to the British public as sources of green energy yet this is nothing more then a cynical exercise in spin. Recycling saves more energy than is created by burning waste, and once built incinerators lock councils in to supplying them with large amounts of waste that could be better recycled or composted.