UK Government launches ‘simpler recycling’ plan

On 21st October, the UK Government announced long-awaited reforms to household and business bin collections and a crackdown on ‘unscrupulous waste carriers’.

The UK Government plans to simplify the recycling process and reduce confusion by allowing people to recycle the same materials at home, work, or school. They are also introducing weekly food waste collections for most households by 2026 to reduce the amount of food sent to landfill.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says the Government will expect residual waste to be collected at least fortnightly and work with local authorities to assess waste collection more frequently, especially in urban areas.

The Government is also proposing new exemptions to ensure that waste collectors can collect dry recyclables together in the same bin or bag and collect organic waste together to reduce the number of bins required.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said: “Simpler recycling will help us all recycle more easily, doing our bit to help save the planet and make the best use of precious resources that we use every day.”

The reforms set out to bring in a more “convenient and practical system” that prevents councils from being hit with “extra complexity” while ensuring all local authorities collect the required recyclable waste streams: glass, metal, plastic, paper and card, food waste and garden waste.

Defra says manufacturers can design packaging and know it can be recycled across the nation, ensuring there is more recycled material in the products we buy and allowing the UK recycling industry to grow.
The plans will apply to all homes in England, including flats. Similar measures will apply to non-household municipal premises, including businesses, hospitals, schools and universities.

In addition to these measures, the Government will continue to drive forward efforts to make waste collections simpler across the country by launching a four-week consultation on expanding the definition of non-household municipal premises – so that the rules could also cover places of worship, prisons, charity shops and residential hostels.

These plans will be supported by a major new effort to clamp down on “untrustworthy waste operators” and ensure that waste ends up where it’s supposed to.

The Chartered Institution for Wastes Management (CIWM) welcomed the announcement, calling it “a relief” that the sector finally has the details needed to enable it to “move forward”.

Lee Marshall, CIWM Policy & External Affairs Director, said: “We have been waiting for this announcement for what feels like an age, so it is great that we now have the details. The flexibility around collection systems appears sensible, and I am sure local authorities will be pleased with that approach.

“The proposal to restrict residual frequency to a maximum of fortnightly is, however, unwelcome, as there are numerous examples of how this helps increase recycling and makes collections more cost-effective.”

CIWM has concerns about the timescales involved for all local authorities to undertake potentially significant service changes and for the private sector to bid on the relevant contracts.

“Overall, we view this announcement as a very positive, albeit long overdue, step forward,” CIWM said.

“It reassures the sector that Defra is serious about delivering the reforms outlined in the Resources and Waste Strategy, which will help us achieve our purpose of a world beyond waste.”

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