Why only Wales? Call for England to enact stricter recycling laws

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Westminster not doing enough as landfill sites reach bursting point

New strict recycling laws being put forward for schools, hospitals and businesses in Wales should also apply to England as our landfill sites reach bursting point.

That’s the view of a national waste and recycling company that says the stronger waste management laws in Scotland are already making a big difference, and the proposed Welsh legislation will leave England lagging far behind the rest of the United Kingdom.

Yorkshire-based BusinessWaste.co.uk waste management company says that Britain’s recycling rates – stalled at around 45% for the third year running need a good legislative kick up the backside in order to reach the heights of our more foresighted European neighbours.

“We have European partners that are talking about a 100% recycled economy,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. “Meanwhile, we’re dithering about to such an extent that we’re going to miss our 50% target for the year 2020, and that’s a disgrace.”

Wales is set to join Scotland in compelling businesses and organisations to separate their waste as far as is practical. That means that far less waste is sent to landfill or to energy recovery plants for burning, BusinessWaste.co.uk explains, saying that Scottish rates of recycling are expected to rise sharply in 2015, the first year of the new regulations.

“There’s no such conversation going on for England, and that’s where 80% of the population lives, generating 80% of the UK’s waste.”

The Welsh Bill means that:

• Schools, businesses and organisations will have to sort paper, card, glass, metal food and wood waste separately
• Extend a 5p charge on plastic bags to ‘bags for life’
• Ban food waste from being dumped in sewers to prevent ‘fatbergs’
• Cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050
• Wales is already committed to a 70% recycling target by 2025

“These are all things which can just as easily be achieved in England as well,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk, “But the sad fact is that feet are being dragged both in government and in business.”

With only a few years left in England’s landfill capacity, there’s a race against time and local objections to find new sites to bury unwanted rubbish. That’s a problem that can be postponed virtually indefinitely if England followed Wales down this more sustainable road.

“Westminster knows what needs to be done,” Hall says, “but they’ve painted themselves into a corner with their austerity policies, and they’ve got the ear of companies and business groups who are scared that greater recycling burdens will hit profitability.”

That’s a short-sighted view that is damaging both to the environment and the long-term UK economy says Business Waste.

If parliament is unwilling to enact legislation that brings England into line with the rest of the UK, then it’s up to English schools, businesses and organisations to voluntarily step into line and improve their environmental and waste policies.

English companies should:

• Speak to their waste operator about separate bins for paper, glass, metal, wood and food.
• Set challenging targets for their recycling rates. They current UK average is 45%, so 60 to 70% is realistic for most organisations
• Encourage staff to think about cutting down waste in their working days

“Let’s not wait years for English politicians to play catch-up with the rest of the country,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall, “Let’s just go ahead and do it anyway.”

“We’d like to see a range of different bins by the back door of every company,” says Hall.

And supermarkets should go the whole hog, as well, says Hall.

“Never mind the 5p charge for single-use carrier bags – let’s ban them altogether.”

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