UK – The UK Government has unveiled its “Simpler Recycling” plan, designed to standardize recycling collections across England and increase recycling rates.

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The proposal, spearheaded by Recycling Minister Robbie Moore, includes allowing households to use a single bin for plastics, metals, glass, and paper/card in all areas and potentially co-collecting food and garden waste.

Furthermore, the Government has committed to supporting more frequent and comprehensive bin collections, with a minimum expectation that councils collect residual waste at least fortnightly alongside weekly food waste collections.

This move is a response to concerns raised about less frequent collections seen outside England.

Robbie Moore emphasized the importance of this plan, stating, “We all want to increase recycling and reduce landfill waste, but differing bin collections across England can be confusing. Our Simpler Recycling plan will eliminate this confusion by ensuring a consistent set of materials collected regardless of location.”

However, despite government enthusiasm, consultation responses from the recycling industry revealed significant apprehensions about the proposed changes.

Defra’s proposal to allow mixing dry recyclables into a single collection received support from 76% of consultation respondents, including 170 local authorities.

Advocates argue that this approach will simplify recycling for households and potentially boost recycling yields.

Nevertheless, 22% of respondents expressed concerns that mixing recyclables lowers their quality and value due to increased contamination. Research cited by Defra indicates varying contamination rates for different collection methods.

Additionally, the Government’s push for more frequent residual waste collections faced strong opposition from over half of the local authorities consulted. Many argued that less frequent collections are crucial for driving up recycling rates.

The debate highlights a broader tension between national consistency and local flexibility, with many respondents emphasizing that councils are best placed to deliver effective local recycling services.

Supporting the Government’s plan, Patrick Brighty, Head of Recycling Policy at the Environmental Services Association (ESA), said: “The ESA supports measures that provide local authorities with the flexibility to determine their collection model based on their circumstances, but, whatever the chosen solution, councils will need to demonstrate that their service choices deliver the efficient and effective recycling performance required by the new packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regime.

“Appropriate commingling of materials – which must be done carefully to avoid contamination and preserve quality – would minimize the number of bins required for householders and businesses and maintain an efficient collection service.”

Concerns also centered on funding, with questions about how councils will implement enhanced recycling services without substantial financial support from the central government.

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