Richard Olive and Ray Manning on Recycling in Cambridgeshire

bin08:07 Monday 2nd June 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: We’re talking recycling this morning, and good news and bad news. The good news, we are recycling more. Bad news, not doing it right. The Government says more and more contaminating items are finding their way into our recycling bins, meaning more waste is in the end having to go to landfill. It can cost us all money as well. Councils can get paid for waste they recycle, but have to pay to put rubbish in the land. Steve Emington spoke to me earlier from, and he explained why he thinks there’s such a problem with it.
STEVE EMINGTON: 90% of people get it pretty much right. But then you do get householders sometimes who might put the odd curry in, or children’s nappy, stuff which you really wouldn’t logically put into recycling. And that’s more likely to be the problem. We’re all rushing around, busy lives and the like. So it might be easier to put the wrong thing in the bin one day, just absent minded or don’t necessarily know. It could be a call for more education perhaps. Sometimes the message doesn’t get through, people don’t understand. It’s not always easy.
PAUL STAINTON: Sue says: “The tightening of council budgets hasn’t helped either.”
STEVE EMINGTON: It’s back to economics. At the moment councils with their financial pressures, recycling is getting hot on two fronts. One green waste, because some people have got huge gardens and they’re trying to get money back for the service; and secondly the councils have got less money for education, so you won’t be getting as many leaflets through the door, or publicity campaigns to actually help you, tell you what can be recycled.
PAUL STAINTON: Well Ray Manning is the Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, the county with the highest rates of recycling in Cambridgeshire. Ray, good morning.
RAY MANNING: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: So what can everybody else learn from you do you think?
RAY MANNING: Well I think we are doing well. You’ve already said we’re the highest and we’re in the top ten. We’re doing very well. I heard the point about more education and yes, that’s the answer. But I think that we publish something every month in every issue of our magazine, and also our people go out and talk to schools, because they’re the next generation as well. People with children will know that you get told, hang on a minute mum, or hang on dad, you shouldn’t be doing that. They tend to be more vigilant than we are.
PAUL STAINTON: But it is part of the problem also that it’s not universal, is it? Some people have got their black bin, the green bin, the grey bin, the brown bin. Then we’ve got different systems for how we do it. How do you do it? Explain how your bin sorting works in South Cambridgeshire.
RAY MANNING: We’ve got the three. We’ve got the black bin for all refuse. We’ve got the blue bin for the recycling, and the green bin which is for the organic waste.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. So it’s all different, isn’t it, from everywhere else you see. Is that part of the problem, with people got used to one particular system, one colour co-ordinated system? It might help, mightn’t it?
RAY MANNING: It probably would, but you can’t do that now, because the cost would be enormous. Huntingdon District Council have got different coloured bins to us. To scrap and recycle the bins I think .., Anyway it doesn’t take very long. How often do you move house? It’s not actually a monthly occurrence.
PAUL STAINTON: So what happens to your blue bin waste then?
RAY MANNING: We try and recycle the two. The most important thing to us is that we’ve got this paper caddy in the top of our blue one, because if we keep the really good quality paper separate we get so much more money for it. So I think that’s one of the things that has been most successful in South Cambs., the actual keeping of paper separate. Although in the green it can be recovered, it’s very cheap in just bulk. We reckon it’s about another £200,000 a year is possible from keeping the paper separate.
PAUL STAINTON: What do you make to this comment from David Harvey. who said, “The councils should do it all. It shouldn’t be up to individuals. Why? Because it’s more cost-effective. Bulk separation is cheaper than us doing it, creates more jobs. Most importantly saves water. Cleaning yoghurt pots etcetera we end up spending all that money on excess water.” So it should be up to councils to do all the separating, and we’ll leave you to it.
RAY MANNING: Well yes, obviously that’s a way of looking at things. But quite honestly I can’t agree with that. It takes, what, a couple of spoonfuls of water to rinse out a pot and have it done and things like that. If it’s already partially sorted it means it’s far easier at the other end. Yes, you could go back to a system of all black and then trying to sort it out, but your earlier speaker was saying about how you get things perhaps contaminated with nappies and stuff like this. Surely it is better to have a system whereby it’s roughly sorted beforehand.
PAUL STAINTON: Of course one part of Cambridgeshire where rules around recycling have recently changed is Peterborough, where the City Council has decided to charge people to have their brown garden waste bins collected. A lot of people very unhappy with that. Richard Olive is a member of Peterborough Friends of the Earth. Is that a good move from Peterborough City Council Richard in your opinion? .. Is Peterborough wise to do what it’s done?

RICHARD OLIVE: In terms of charging, no it certainly isn’t, because it’s almost certain to reduce the recycling quantities. I suppose comparing Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is quite interesting, because I don’t know if people are aware, Cambridgeshire actually recycles 56%, and it’s increasing. But Peterborough is down to 48% and it’s obviously going to reduce even more. So it’s not actually going to help encourage people to recycle at all by charging them.
PAUL STAINTON: So a retrograde step in your opinion.


Definitely. Yes. I think actually Cambridgeshire does a superb job. Ray was actually saying about the quality of the paper, keeping the glass out of it. Peterborough doesn’t do that of course. We mix everything together. The glass gets in the paper. So it’s a fairly low grade quality paper. And what that actually means is that we earn a lot less for our paper than Cambridgeshire does. If Peterborough’s paper was kept free, it means a lot of money this does, it could earn an additional £2,203,000 a year.
PAUL STAINTON: More than pay for the brown bins, wouldn’t it?
RICHARD OLIVE: It would do, yes. easily.
PAUL STAINTON: That’s interesting.
RICHARD OLIVE: But of course we use totally different systems for all sorts of things in Peterborough. All our waste is co-mingled. It’s all mixed up, so it all gets contaminated. So rather than actually pointing a finger at people and saying you’ve got to do better, I’m saying the Council really ought to do better first of all. And it would be far easier for the Council to do it. And I think there are various things that they could do after that, in terms of persuading people to recycle. It actually happens around the country. Milton Keynes uses a system called Cash for Trash. And they actually reward people for recycling correctly. They select a bin at random each day. If people have done it correctly they get some shopping vouchers. In Birmingham they actually give away Nectar points to people who recycle correctly. So those are the sort of things they ought to do, rather than say you’ve got to do this. Let’s make recycling fun and exciting.
PAUL STAINTON: Is that the way to go? Richard Olive, thank you. A member of Peterborough Friends of the Earth, very critical of the City Council. Is that the way to go? Encourage more people to recycle? We did ask Peterborough City Council about recycling. They said “We’re in the process of setting up a joint contract with other district councils in Cambridgeshire to allow us to recycle a greater range of plastics and other materials. This should be up and running by next year. We don’t intend to collect paper separately from other green bin recycling, as we believe the system we currently use provides the best value for money, and is the easiest option for residents at the moment ..” although that’s not what Richard just said. ” .. however as technology advances (see below) this may of course change in the future.” Richard saying there Peterborough City Council could make up to £2 million in extra revenue if it just separated the paper out from the rest of its recyclable waste. Well that would pay for a few things, wouldn’t it?


PREL Committee Call

“CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS: It’s an energy park that will deal with waste, regardless of whether it be commercial waste at the back of your offices, or household waste that might find it’s way into the system. We will convert it into recyclant. We will take only the biomass, the woody natural part, and convert that for energy. And then we have a plasma facility that will clean that up, all the air pollution control residues, but also recycle batteries, glass, lightbulbs, into new products, so that what leaves the plant is new products. It sits behind the power station.” July 16th 2010

PREL Committee Call

note: Current Peterborough City Council Conservative Leader Marco Cereste is the Chairman of PREL

Planning permission for the venture runs out this year. Construction has not started.