A presentation was given to the Committee on International, National and Local Authority waste news.
International Waste News
The Committee were advised that a recent translation of an official Chinese government announcement reveals an intention to reduce solid waste imports to zero by 2020.
The Committee were aware that China set and then increased a number of restrictions on recyclable materials that the country imports, which have had a major impact on global recycling markets. However, it was noted that in July, China and the European Union signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy cooperation; which is expected to set the scene for greater sharing of best practice, potentially creating a system shift towards a low carbon, regenerative economy.
The Committee were advised that a total of 15 Commonwealth countries have now pledged to join together to take action to tackle ocean plastic pollution by eliminating avoidable plastic waste – such as bans on microbeads, or a commitment to cutting down on single-use plastic bags
European Waste News
The Committee were informed that a recent report by the Environmental Services Association looked into the weight-based recycling targets proposed through the EU Circular Economy Package. The report suggests that a dashboard approach utilising other, new, metrics that map behaviours across the value chain, targeting different stakeholders; such as targets to measure resource productivity, environmental performance, producer responsibility indicators and public satisfaction or perception surveys.
The report also highlighted that increasing the UK based recycling reprocessing capacity should be a Government priority, along with requirements for extended producer responsibility and recycled content across UK manufacturing.
National Waste News
New research released by the North London Waste Authority has found that the ‘Blue Planet effect’ has revealed that 69% of people surveyed are trying to change their plastic habits to help the environment. Half of the 2,000+ UK adults surveyed stated that they thought recycling as much as possible was the best way to reduce the impact of single use plastics on the environment, rather than stop buying or using these items. North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has issued a reminder to residents to highlight waste prevention, targeting a switch to reusable bottles as an example and calling on more shops, bars and cafes to make it easier for people to refill water bottles on the go.
The Committee were advised that the Waste and Resources Action Programme has also undertaken some work to help the public understand plastics by publishing a factsheet on plastic packaging for anyone who may be interested in the complexities around different types of plastic packaging.
Separate analysis from the Local Government Association suggests that only a third of plastics used by households is recyclable, and has called on manufacturers to stop using materials that ‘hamper recycling efforts’
The LGA claim that 525,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays are used by households every year - but that just 169,145 tonnes are able to be recycled
99% of councils collect plastic for recycling and 77% plastic pots, tubs and trays. The LGA also point out that black plastic used in some food packaging is notoriously difficult to recycle and is a particular problem.
In a unconnected move, it was noted that supermarket chain Aldi have recently announced that they plan to phase out the use of black plastic trays on a range of fresh produce, replacing them with recyclable, reusable or compostable materials by 2025.
Committee were also advised that there has been an 86% drop in English supermarket plastic bag sales from the big 7 supermarkets, with 9 billion fewer bags issued since 2015. In 2017/18 the plastic bag levy resulted in the donation of £60m to good causes.
The Prime Minister also announced that the government plans to consult on extending the levy to all retailers, with over three billion bags still estimated to be supplied by small and medium sized enterprises each year.
The Committee were advised that the Treasury has announced that there had been overwhelming support from the public on a range of measures, in the recent consultation on using tax measures to reduce single use plastics, which, included encouraging recycling as opposed to incineration; A record of 162,000 responses were received.
The Committee noted that the Partnership’s waste strategy prioritises recycling ahead of incineration as a waste disposal option – both on environmental and financial grounds.
Local Authority Waste News
The Committee were advised that London Mayor Sadiq Khan has expressed deep concern at Barnet council’s proposal to stop its separate household food waste collections, suggesting that, if needed, he would use his powers of direction to block the move. However, the Leader of Barnet Council, said that the Mayor will not be able to use executive powers to force the authority to continue to deliver separate food waste collections, because they can only be used when compliance by the authority did not lead to excessive additional cost.
The Committee were advised that Council services in West Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde and Argyll & Bute will be affected as external waste contractor Greenlight Environmental have called in the administrators. West Dunbartonshire has warned its residents of the closure of two household waste and recycling centres and the cessation of some other collection services, such as separate glass collections.
The failure of the business has drawn concerns from local politicians and MSP’s.
The Committee were informed that North Tyneside Council has introduced alternate weekly collections, which sees recycling and residual waste collected fortnightly.
North Tyneside has the worst recycling rate in Tyne and Wear and were the only regional local authority still to operate a weekly collection for household residual waste.
The Committee were also advised that SUEZ have started the process to construct a new £100 million EfW at Billingham on Teesside; on land adjacent to the partnerships facility. Planning permission for a sixth energy from waste line at Haverton Hill was actually granted in 2014, and SUEZ estimate that the new facility will be operational by 2022, with the capacity to potentially treat 240,000 tonnes of residual waste a year. Enabling works have been completed, and Suez are now in the process of procuring a construction contractor to build the facility.
It is also anticipated that the construction and operation of Line 6 will not impact on operations across Lines 1 to 5 or the delivery of the partnership’s residual waste treatment contract.
RESOLVED - that Joint Executive Committee noted the contents of the report.