There are a variety of concerns among leading experts in waste and recycling, as many believe we are reaching an important time when clear decisions and decisive action is required more than ever before. Here are some of the thoughts of the future of recycling in the UK, from people who work in or around the industry.
UK Recycling – What Are The Issues?
One of the major topics which have been debated over recent years is the reliance on targets and how effective these are at achieving the desired outcome. Some believe that they take the focus away from what really matters, changing the way people think and act.
“There is a danger that we could end up recycling simply because there is a target to recycle,” says Paul Taylor, from the Waste Recycling Group (WRG). “That becomes very expensive and the cost is passed on to consumers, the public and to business. Have we got that balance right?”
This was countered by Liz Goodwin, Chief Executive of WRAP, who believes that over time the balance would always shift. “If you look back 10 years, you would have drawn a different line as to what was best to recover energy from and what was best to recycle. That has certainly moved in the past 10 years and it will probably move again.”
Another issue which was discussed is how to encourage those who still refuse to recycle to their bit. Margaret Bates, Professor of Sustainable Wastes Management at Northampton University, wondered what could be done to get to those people who ‘couldn’t be bothered’ to recycle. Colin Church, Director of Resource, Atmosphere & Sustainability at Defra, argued that 100% participations weren’t required to meet targets, but widespread collections for plastics and food are urgently required.
“Having said that, yes, there is the question about how you get people to do it. It is a big factor and there are social, economic and political considerations about whether that is the right thing to do - and at what cost and how.”
One area which is seen as the best possible way to help encourage this and educate consumers is with better education, particular through packaging. Many people do buy into the ideals of recycling and do it regularly. Although it has been found that only 25% of people put the right thing in the right bin every time.
One of the causes for people not recycling properly is not only a lack of understanding on certain aspects, but also a lack of trust over what is happening with the recycling and whether it is managed effectively. “When food waste started being an issue, all the messaging was around ‘wow - that’s a lot of food waste’ and then, when the economic downturn came, the thing that people really responded to was ‘you are wasting £60 a month’.” Says Goodwin.
Recycling in the UK is set to continue to struggle reaching the required targets unless clearer messages are put across which reach the people who are still not engaged with recycling and helping the environment. But with a lot of time, money and resources being used, new technologies and better understanding will help us to reach our sustainability goals.
Total Waste Management From Recycling Services
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If you would like to find out more about total waste management or any of our other services, then please get in touch with the Recycling Services team who will happy to answer any questions you may have. Please call us today on 01952 204471.