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Not all your recycling is actually being recycled

February 13, 2020 6:00 PM
By Wera Hobhouse
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Wera HobhouseThis Tory government needs to take the climate emergency seriously - and that includes action to achieve a zero-waste economy.

When a person puts their empty plastic bottle in a recycling bin, they understandably assume it gets recycled.

When I was the Cabinet member for the environment on Rochdale council, and when we sent our paper and cardboard to be recycled, we knew it had new lives as cardboard inserts to kitchen roll.

However, this is not always the case.

Far too often our waste, including recyclable items, are sold to private contractors who can incinerate or export waste to unregulated facilities.

We've all become aware of the devastating effect that plastic pollution is having on our oceans.

This isn't the fault of our cash-strapped councils, who need to balance good waste management with ever-decreasing funding from the government.

The plastic bag tax introduced by the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition government was hugely successful, but it was only ever intended to be the first step. Across the country people are making a real effort to reduce their waste - they want to recycle properly and stop polluting our environment. We need to have a clear way of tracking waste to make sure that rubbish does not end up in our ocean.

This country needs the government to put greater investment into recycling infrastructure so that more of our waste can be recycled, without the need to export or burn it.

We also need policies which prioritise waste prevention - the end game of all sustainable waste management strategies.

Whilst the Tories talk the talk about protecting the environment, I do not think they will take the urgent action necessary to tackle the climate emergency. Achieving a zero-waste economy is crucial to transitioning to net-zero carbon emissions.

One key change I want to see is for greater transparency around what happens to our waste. Each of us should be able to find out exactly what happens to the stuff we put in our bins.

When the Environment Bill returns to parliament, I will be tabling an amendment which would mean Local Authorities must trace and publish the end destination of all their waste.

This will be an important change to the law - ensuring that waste is not ending up dumped in rivers.

Many of our fantastic Liberal Democrat councils already publish what they do with their waste and where it ends up. I want this to be standard practice across the country.

Over the last few weeks, I have had conversations with Liberal Democrat council leaders and have been impressed to hear about the plans they've laid out to transition their councils to net-zero.

This Tory government needs to take the climate emergency seriously - and that includes action to achieve a zero-waste economy.

Transparency in where our waste ends up is only one step but combined with real investment from the government in recycling infrastructure, we could put an end to the dumping of plastics in rivers and oceans.