Councils in Kent have expressed concern at the national implications of the recent closure of Aylesford Newsprint’s paper mill, saying that recycling businesses are under such intense pressures they will either have to cut back on their operations or even go under.
On 24 February, administrators of the Kent plant made 233 employees redundant and retained 65 others to assist in sale of assets and decommissioning the plant, which produced 400,000 tonnes of newsprint a year from 500,000 tonnes of recycled waste fibre.
Paper collected by several Kent councils used to be delivered to Aylesford Newsprint and they are now making arrangements so that the material continues to be recycled.
The Kent Resource Partnership (KRP) members’ board, with representatives of 13 local authorities in the county, has issued a statement expressing shock at the closure and effect on local families.
It is also worried about the wider implications, and calls on the next Government to investigate the reasons for problems across all recycled materials and how the resilience of the UK recycling industry can be strengthened.
The statement said: “KRP is very concerned that a national trend may be developing where recycling businesses are facing such intense pressures that they either diminish operations or cease to continue as going concerns.
“Several materials recycled across the UK appear to have been impacted recently, including the four prescribed in EU and national legislation: paper, plastic, glass and metal.
“The common goal must surely be to ensure that recyclates collected by councils have outlets to be recycled. Without a thriving UK recycling industry, the KRP believes local economic growth and jobs may be at risk, especially in communities across the country hosting major recycling facilities such as those at Aylesford.”
Members are also concerned that the national recycling target of 50% by 2020, which has looked increasingly difficult to achieve, will prove to be even more elusive.
Meanwhile, the Resource Association (RA) has also spoken of its sadness at the effect on employees of a company that had helped to establish the association.
Chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “The RA wishes to acknowledge and express thanks to our founder member Aylesford Newsprint for its vision in supporting the launch of the association back in 2011 and its stalwart support throughout our work to date. In particular, we would like to say a public thank you to former managing director Ian Broxup (who was a founding board member) and head of recycling Gemma Stapeley for their successive service to our board.”