Newcastle’s recycling rates are at the lower end of councils in the country and must be improved, the Newcastle Green Party told Newcastle City Council in their response entitled “Waste Not, Want Not” to the council’s public waste consultation which closed last week.
Newcastle recycles only about 42% of household waste, and last year recycling fell to the lowest rates in nearly a decade. The council’s recycling rates scored only 198th out of 350 local authorities last year, and these rates are not increasing. Newcastle lags behind the UK government target that 50% of household waste will be recycled by 2020.
“We’re lagging far behind countries like Germany, Austria & Belgium who recycle or compost about 60% or their waste” said Green Party spokesperson Andrew Gray. “Clearly Newcastle can and must do better. Newcastle currently exports much of its waste to places like Sweden, but as this option becomes increasingly expensive it’s going to cost Newcastle dearly if we don’t improve”.
“There’s growing awareness about plastic waste in particular, thanks to TV programmes like BBC’s Blue Planet 2. It’s great to see new plastic-free community groups in Newcastle but the Waste Commission’s recommendation to ban single-use plastics like bags, cups and straws needs urgent implementation by the council”.
Last year contamination of recycling, due to mis-sorting of rubbish, cost the council half a million - and they warned that recycling collections could be reduced. Contamination reduces the value of recyclables as well as meaning that items which could have otherwise been recycled end up going to landfill or incineration.
“We need better information, not worse recycling options. It’s no wonder residents are confused” argues Gray, “as there’s not enough information on bins and households don’t receive reminder leaflets regularly enough - particularly in neighbourhoods with transient populations. We also need face to face visits by councillors or council staff to answer questions”.
According to the Greens’ report the council could save money by helping residents to separate recyclable materials at home instead of paying for it to be done later at sorting centres - for example putting glass, paper and plastic in different compartments.
“We need greater bin capacity in some areas of the city, and a system of bin day reminder texts to help tackle overflowing bins, which adds to litter or sometimes leaves people little option but to put waste in the wrong bins. And for bars and takeaways it should be a condition of their licence that they sort their recyclable waste”, says Gray.
The Green Party strongly recommends the council start collecting food waste from homes and businesses for composting too, because this could reduce odours from bins and means less contamination of other recyclables, raising their value. “Food waste can be sold either as compost or to generate energy by anaerobic digestion. The council could work more with schools and community groups to educate about reducing food waste through shopping and cooking habits, such the difference between best before dates and use-by dates”, says Green Party spokesman Andrew Gray.
“While recycling is important, reducing waste and reusing items should be given greater emphasis in the council’s strategy” adds Gray.
The Green Party’s submission suggested incentives for local businesses to reduce packaging via commercial waste charges. They also recommend lower rates for re-use businesses, to encourage more community enterprises like Recyke y’bike and Newcastle Wood Recycling. “Newcastle has some great examples like The Magic Hat Café, which recycles food waste into pay-as-you-feel meals in Byker, the Star & Shadow’s Fix It Café in Sandyford that helps people to mend items, and the Community Furniture charity in Byker & the West End”.
The Greens suggest that the Reuse Mall recommended by Newcastle Waste Commission could also offer services like repair for white goods and computers, and be tied in with a centralised system of local advertising of reusable materials.