Headlines: November 25th, 2008

Councils are being given help to deal with waste recycling problems arising from the fall in the price of recycled materials Because of the worldwide economic downturn. The Local Government Association has produced an action plan and has written to all council leaders to detail ways in which local authorities can tackle problems caused by a dramatic drop in demand.

The LGA says many councils are not affected at the moment as they have fixed price contracts for recyclable materials but some firms are refusing to take recycled items because of the collapse in prices. A survey by the Association shows that three-quarters of councils report falling prices, just over a quarter have increased the temporary storage of materials within existing capacity and 23 per cent are looking at alternative ways to get rid of the material if the situation does not improve.

Councillor Paul Bettison, who chairs the LGA Environment Board, will meet DEFRA ministers this week and he stressed the need for people to continue to recycle items. “Should councils be unable to secure buyers for recyclable material, short-term storage should be explored as the most sensible option. The Environment Agency has issued guidance on the storage of recyclable material, and is committed to responding quickly to requests for temporary increases in storage capacity for recyclable waste at sites already permitted to accept it. Should this prove insufficient, the LGA will press them to quickly permit appropriate new sites,” he added.

Steps in the LGA action plan include using expert advice from industry and Government to find new buyers for material and increasing composting of biodegradable materials where additional storage is not an option. It also calls on the Government to return the proceeds of landfill tax to councils so they can invest the money – estimated at 1.5 billion pounds over the past three years in facilities that will produce higher quality and more marketable materials.