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I have long been concerned about the environmental consequences of our collective failure in Britain to recycle enough of our waste .  I take a keen interest both in the Government's policies on waste management and recycling and in Birmingham City Council's somewhat desultory efforts.   I am also a member of the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Waste Group. 

We need a real 'cultural change' if we are to achieve any improvement in our recycling rates; recycling really does have to become 'a way of life'!

The UK is lagging hopelessly behind other European countries when it comes to recycling. 

EU Recycling Rates for 2006
  • Netherlands: 65%
  • Austria: 59%
  • Germany: 58%
  • Belgium: 52%
  • Sweden: 41%
  • Denmark: 41%
  • Luxembourg: 36%
  • Spain: 35%
  • Ireland:31%
  • Italy: 29%
  • Finland: 28%
  • France: 28%
  • UK: 18%
  • Greece: 8%
  • Portugal: 3%

Source: Institute for Public Policy Research

We risk being fined by the EU

England has four years to catch up if it is not to receive fines from the European Union (EU) ; by 2010, the EU Landfill Directive requires Member States to cut the amount of biodegradable waste they send to landfills by 25 percent of that produced in 1995.   Waste reductions must reach half the 1995 figures in 2013 and two-thirds by 2020.

Local authorities face tough fines from the government - up to £150 per ton of rubbish - if England fails to meet the EU directive, and the country will have to meet 40 percent of the 2010 recycling targets to avoid EU sanctions.

EU News: European Parliament votes on revision of Waste Framework Directive and Thematic Strategy on the Recycling of Waste - 13 February 2007


Variable charging

In order to catch up we need to be much more ambitious about our national recycling targets.  I would like to see a 50% recycling rate by 2010, whereas currently the Government's target for England is only 50% by 2020.  In my view we need a political framework that does more to force businesses and individuals themselves to take responsibility for the rubbish they produce.  That is why I am in favour of variable charging, and supported the Local Government Association's recent call for the Government to give local councils the powers to implement charging schemes to encourage waste prevention, reuse, recycling and composting. 

Recycling in Birmingham

As the largest local authority in Europe, Birmingham City Council should be leading the way in waste recycling, rather than lagging, 286th in 2006, among UK local authorities, especially when the UK is itself is the 3rd worst recycling ‘laggard’ within Europe.   In comparison with other West Midland councils Birmingham is also doing badly.

Recycling: How West Midland Councils Compare
Council % Recycled
Lichfield 45.4
Bromsgrove 40.6
Tamworth 36.1
Solihull 25.3
Walsall 24.2
Wolverhapton 21.5
Cannock 21.3
Dudley 19.7
Birmingham 17.0
Redditch 17.0
Sandwell 16.6
Figures from Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Despite my lobbying the Council since 2001 (see the previous postings link below), it doesn't seem able to get past the pilot stage with many of its recycling schemes.  For some time now I have been lobbying Birmingham City Council to put in place city-wide collection and proper facilities for recycling of plastics, in response to the considerable demand from local people - I frequently receive letters from constituents on this subject.   Click here to see a copy of Cllr. Gregory's response to me of 8 June 2006.

 In November 2006 I raised the issue via an Oral Parliamentary Question (PQ) to the Environment Minister, Ben Bradshaw, which I have reproduced below:

 Hansard 2 Nov 2006 : Column 443

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I am ashamed to have to say that, at 17 per cent. waste recycling, Birmingham city council came 286th in the league tables. Hopefully that will improve with the recent garden waste doorstep collection, but doorstep collection of glass and plastic still takes place only on a pilot basis and there is still no collection point to which people can take their waste plastics. The council has attributed that to the lack of a plastics processor in Birmingham and the need to feed the Tyseley energy-from-waste incinerator. Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the existence of energy-from-waste plants is discouraging councils from recycling or from setting up facilities that allow—

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. Bradshaw: I do not accept my hon. Friend’s point, although I hope that Birmingham city council—

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): It is Tory.

Mr. Bradshaw: As my hon. Friend reminds the House, it is a Conservative council. I hope that it makes more of an effort to provide the sort of facilities that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) describes. Plastics and glass are collected by many local authorities around the country. There is a good price for plastics at the moment because of the high oil price. As many hon. Members will know, we export quite a lot of our waste for recycling in other countries. I am not quite sure why there is a particular problem in her region, but I will certainly look into the matter and write to her. She is right to say that it is important that, as we move towards more energy from waste, we do not take the pressure off increased recycling. Recycling is still a much better environmental option than incineration—she is right to say that—but incineration is better than landfill.                                                                                                                   

Unfortunately the Speaker cut me off mid-sentence, but what I wanted to go on to say was this:

 "… or from setting up facilities that allow options further up the waste hierarchy?  i.e. recycling facilities, such as a plastics recycling facility. "

On 5th December 2006 I followed up my PQ by writing to Ben Bradshaw MP.   To read his response, click on pages 1 and 2.  

Read my letter of 13th December 2006 to Cllr. Gregory about a number of recycling issues.  I have subsequently been informed that the plastics collected in the pilot recycling scheme are sent to recycling facilities outside Birmingham, however, this does not alter the fact that plastics recycling should be a Birmingham-wide service not a pilot scheme

Previous postings on refuse collection and recycling in Birmingham

Click here to view



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Big Green Challenge

Listen to me at the launch of the 'Big Green Challenge'

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