Could recycling be a load of rubbish?
Welsh local authorities have been giving themselves a well-deserved pat on the back for meeting recycling targets.
In case you’re wondering, Swansea claimed just over 59% which translates into 70,000 out of 118,000 tonnes recycled in 2015/16 instead of being sent to landfill. Neath Port Talbot recycled 58% of its waste while Carmarthenshire households achieved a 64% rate.
The official target is currently 58% rising to 64% by 2020 and 70% by 2025.
Theoretically, under-performing councils can be fined for coming up short although a group of them escaped penalties totalling £1.6m last year on the grounds that the Welsh Government felt it would be “counter-productive”.
So we have what appears to be a good news story, well on the surface anyway. Yet can we be sure that we put into the recycling bags and bins ends up where it should?
The reason I ask is that the amount of household rubbish disallowed for recycling in England is on the increase. In fact, government figures show an 84% rise in rejections over the past four years.
Something like 3.5% of waste could not be recycled last year. It may not sound much but we’re talking about 338,000 tonnes, which in cubic terms would fill Liberty stadium to the top a couple of times over.
I’ve no idea if we have the same contamination problem here in Wales – as I couldn’t find figures – but I’m sure someone will take advantage of silly the season to find out.
Targets in England are less stringent. Statistics show about 45% of household waste is currently recycled. They aim to meet an EU target to recycle at least 50% by 2020. (Brexit notwithstanding, I suppose).
That may not happen though if local authorities, recycling operators and industry fail to get their act together.
Some accept tissue and kitchen roll as paper product but many don’t. There’s similar disagreement in the sector about whether cling film and bubble wrap can be included in plastic recyclables.
Recycling is hard enough work for householders. The prospect of the stuff we patiently sort being inadvertently contaminated by our best intentions is clearly an unwelcome one.
Of course, what could also be a factor is that there’s just not as much brass to be made from muck as used to be the case.
According to the Financial Times, firms who at one time picked up £400 for each tonne of recycled plastic now get just £300 and often less. A bundle of recycled paper and cardboard used to sell at £80 a tonne three years ago. Now it fetches £55 on trade websites.
Plastic has suffered most. Raw materials made from oil and gas production by-products are now cheaper for manufacturers to purchase than recycled polymers.
Speaking personally, I find my local recycling centre at Llansamlet to be a well-run, well-informed and pretty tidy operation. For the time being therefore, I’ll use the proven method of checking; when in doubt, ask.
A taste of Welsh dis-establishment
Neath AM Jeremy Miles talks a lot of sense in flagging up how establishment politics may not have much of a future in Wales.
His insightful comment that institutional complacency could be costly for devolution makes a refreshing change from the complaint by another AM that Senedd proceedings are “boring” – which is bit like saying exams are hard.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has added his own view that a Welsh devolution referendum held today would probably fail. Whether that opinion is related to Brexit or his own general disillusionment with Cardiff Bay is anyone’s guess.
Something not widely mentioned though is that the ‘Abolish the Welsh Assembly’ party actually gained more regional votes than the Greens did at this May’s election.
It quite often it takes a fresh pair of eyes to spot the flaws in something. But it requires wisdom to know when to listen. Let’s hope Wales has both.
Getting het up over cold calls
You've probably had the same experience. The phone rings at the most inconvenient time; you pick up only to hear muffled background call-centre noises. Then either they hang up or you do.
Although I understand that people have to earn a living somehow, it doesn’t stop me from holding the view that cold-calling is nothing less than a modern day social blight.
The law changed last year to make it easier to prosecute firms that go to excess. I read however that only four of the 22 fines issued so far have actually been paid. So pardon me if I’m not impressed by government assurances that the Information Commissioner is to have greater powers.
I already have a bunch of saved numbers on my mobile labelled “junk call”. My plan is to now program my landline so that unrecognised calls get redirected to the Information Commissioner’s office.
I’ll let you know how I get on.