On the 20th of September 2023, Defra (the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced a new waste management initiative in favour of a more workable scheme. The new system will operate under the title ‘Simpler Recycling’, and will relieve the general public of the prospect of having to deal with seven bins to separate materials, as would have been the case with the previously touted scheme of Consistency Collections.
Defra issued statement confirming that ‘Simpler Recycling’ will be going ahead. This new initiative will mean that the onus will no longer be on homeowners to separate different materials at home, as would have been the case if ‘Consistency Collections’ scheme had been introduced.
When the news broke, there was some initial confusion, as it became clear that Defra was announcing that the Government was scrapping ‘Consistency Collections, which was strange because it hadn’t actually been introduced. A Government spokesperson tried to clarify the situation by explaining, “We want to make recycling easier and more consistent so that all councils across England collect the same materials. This will make it easier for everyone to know what materials can be collected for recycling, which in return will reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.” Clear as mud as they say, but it if cuts down the number of bins and faff, then let’s give it a go!
Apparently, this new legislation is the result of in-depth consultations about waste management and recycling launched by Defra in 2021 who were miffed that the Government weren’t taking relevant information into account, with regards to improving business and residential recycling. The new scheme is designed to inform people so they are less concerned about separating and more aware of the materials that can be recycled, which should boost the recycling industry.
This legislation has not come one minute too soon. There are many types of waste generated by homes and businesses that need to be recycled, one major contributor is packaging. The amount of packaging waste generated in the UK (food and non-food products) has reached the astronomical level of 2.87 tonnes per annum. Of which, only 46% per cent is recycled, and the lion’s share ends up in landfills.
Fifty-three per cent of all goods sold are packaged in some form of plastic. If you drill down further there are even three different categories of plastic packaging: primary (direct contact with the product); secondary (protects the primary) and tertiary (usually discarded before reaching home and therefore never recycled). Statistica.com estimates that in 2021, UK households generate an astonishing 100 billion items of plastic waste per annum. This equates to a staggering average of 66 items per household every week.
The amount of plastic packaging produced the UK has been under the spotlight for a while. On the 28th of February 2023, The Packaging Waste Data Reporting Regulations 2023, came into effect. The legislation requires business to provide accurate data pertaining to quantity and the type of plastic they are releasing on to the UK market. The information provided is used to assess the fees that will be charged to ‘manage’ the packaging under the new Extended Producer Responsibility, which will come into action in 2024. The regulations apply to all companies within the supply chain, including importers and distribution.
However, plastic waste is not an issue local to England, it is a global problem. Most people have seen footage of beautiful tropical beaches in far-flung locations being ruined by washed up plastic bottles and other waste. This is a direct result of the damage being done to the environment by the amount of packaging and in particular plastic waste. Literally, the sea of waste plastic is a worldwide problem that needs to be solved by the growth of the circular economy, with greater adherence to recycling, repurposing and reusing products
You may be wondering what this has to do with local waste management in Brighton… well, as a famous supermarket advert used to tell us, “Every little helps!”. When any system is made simpler and less annoying, it makes it easier to comply. Which can only be a good thing.
Adrian Westwood, founder of G&S Clearance waste removal services in Brighton and Hove, a long-term advocate for recycling and the circular economy explained the importance of local recycling: “Recycling is crucial if we are to have a chance of preserving this planet for future generations. As, a waste management specialist operating in Brighton and the surrounding areas, we see firsthand the amount of waste generated both in the residential and commercial sectors. It is our company’s ethos to endeavour to recycle, reuse and repurpose 100% of all items (when possible). We live in a throw-away society, so the best plan is to try to save precious resources where possible. So, the idea is to increase the amount of recycling, and then use elements of the old items to make the new”.
You can read more about G&S Clearance’s company ethos and commitment to sustainability in this blog, Read our last blog, “How the circular economy is shaping waste management services in Brighton”.