UK households create around 60,000 tonnes of rubbish every day. With the population booming, this waste mountain is only going to grow. Experts say that our waste is a valuable resource that should recycled to protect the environment and avoid costly landfill.
But for the first time ever this year, the UK’s recycling rate has fallen. So what’s going wrong? Jonathan Maitland investigates in Rubbish - Battle of the Bins: Tonight.
Three-weekly bin collection
One way to boost recycling rates is for councils to collect landfill waste less frequently, forcing people to separate out their recyclables to conserve space. Nearly two-thirds of UK households have their bins collected every fortnight. However, Tonight found that at least five councils in England and Wales have reduced their landfill waste collection to just once every three weeks.
Tonight visited Bury, Greater Manchester, where the council was the first in Britain to introduce a once every three-week bin collection. While many residents are coping with the change, there’s a concern from some that fly-tipping in the area has increased.
Figures from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) indicate that fly tipping incidents from April 2014 to May 2015 increased by 53% in Bury, compared to the average increase that year across England of 6%.
Although Bury Council admit fly tipping has increased they say there was only a 1% rise in the year following the change to three weekly collections and that recycling has increased.
Another Greater Manchester council - Salford, is beginning trials of three-weekly collections in July 2016.
Tonight spoke to Salford resident Blaine Oliver, who was so concerned about an increase in fly-tipping and rodents that he started a petition against the move. Salford council say that their aim is to boost recycling rates, and that they are cracking down on fly-tippers.
Cuts to local councils’ budgets have resulted in reduced opening hours, even closures, at some household waste recycling centres (what used to be the local tips) around the country. Critics argue this could impact recycling rates.
Household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) provide residents with an alternative to kerbside collections for bulky waste, or specialist rubbish that isn’t collected by the council, like electrical waste.
In Lincolnshire, the County Council recently closed two HWRCs. Local Labour councillor Rosie Kirk told reporter Jonny Maitland that she is concerned fly-tipping will increase because of the move, and said that residents now have to travel into Lincoln city centre to dispose of their bulky items: potentially a 40-minute journey in traffic.
The council says that 95% of its residents are within 12 miles of a recycling centre, and that fly-tipping has not increased since the closures.
Research for the Tonight programme found that in England, 12 out of 27 county councils have already implemented, or are proposing, cuts to household waste recycling centres.
Could you be affected?
Councils proposing three-weekly bin collection (England and Wales - councils which responded):
Salford City Council
Cheltenham Borough Council
Lancaster City Council
Melton Borough Council
Pendle Borough Council
Conwy County Borough Council
Isle of Anglesey County Council
Vale of Glamorgan Council
Flintshire County Council
Councils proposing closures of some Household Waste Recycling Centres (England):
Hampshire County Council
Oxfordshire County Council
Staffordshire County Council
Councils proposing reduced hours at some Household Waste Recycling Centres (England):
Hampshire County Council
Surrey County Council
East Sussex County Council
Devon County Council
North Yorkshire County Council
Northamptonshire County Council
Leicestershire County Council
Hertfordshire County Council
Norfolk County Council
WHAT TO RECYCLE?
Around the UK, there are hundreds of different council recycling schemes. Complex product packaging can also lead to confusion – is it paper, plastic, metal…or all three? So how do you know what to recycle?
Recycle Now is the national recycling campaign for England, supported and funded by the government. Here’s some top tips from them to help you recycle:
Five top tips
Use the Recycling Locator at Recycle Now to find out what can be recycled in your area.
Quickly rinse plastic, metal and glass packaging items before recycling
Flatten cardboard boxes to make more room
Remember to check for items to recycle from the bathroom, bedroom and living room
Keep a small bin or box in your kitchen for your recyclable items, and keep your recycling bin close to your rubbish bin so you can take them out at the same time.