The government has announced plans to simplify the UK’s household recycling system and boost the number of food waste collections.
Currently, local councils take different approaches to recycling, which can cause confusion for residents. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has proposed to standardise collections across the country so people know what materials can and cannot be recycled, regardless of which part of the country they are in.
Weekly collections of food waste will also be introduced for most households across England by 2026 in a bid to stop a trend towards three- or four-weekly bin collections seen in some local authorities across the UK, particularly in Wales.
The government is proposing new exemptions to make sure that waste collectors will be able to collect dry recyclables together, in the same bin or bag, and collect organic waste together to reduce the number of bins required.
At the Conservative Party conference last month Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, claimed that his party would scrap “plans for households to have seven recycling bins”.
Theoretically, the bins would have been for glass, paper and cardboard, metal, plastic, garden waste, food waste and general rubbish. However, former environment secretary George Eustice later admitted that this was not a government policy that households would have been subjected to anyway.
The UK’s recycling efforts have largely stagnated in recent years. The latest figures published by DEFRA earlier this year showed that the UK’s recycling rate increased by just 0.1 percentage points in 2021 in comparison to the year before.
The new reforms should also give manufacturers more clarity on how to design packaging to ensure it can be recycled across the nation.
Environment secretary Thérèse Coffey said: “Simpler recycling will help us all recycle more easily, doing our bit to help save the planet and make the best use of precious resources that we use every day.
“Alongside weekly food waste collections, we are ending the postcode lottery of what you can put in your bin so that, wherever you live in the country, you will be able to recycle the same products with confidence.”
Paul Vanston, chief executive of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN), said: “INCPEN’s recent citizens’ surveys show there is huge public support for the idea of clear, unambiguous recycling instructions on packaging that match up with what can be put into household recycling bins wherever citizens live across the whole country.
“Today’s announcements move us several steps closer to turbo-boosting the country’s packaging recycling rates on metals, paper and card, glass, hard and soft plastics and cartons while enabling citizens to be super-confident when applying simpler recycling behaviours at home and at work in future.”
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