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Carton recycling hit by austerity

The number of councils adding cartons as part of their kerbside services has dropped dramatically, according to the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE).

In an article in the coming issue of MRW, ACE says that only three new councils added the kerbside collections between January and July 2015 compared with 23 in the same period five years ago.

Currently 38% of councils across the UK do not offer carton recycling at kerbside. The latest ACE figures state that only 19% of councils in Yorkshire and Humber offer the service compared with 88% of councils in London. Three-quarters of Scottish councils are expected to offer the service by the end of 2015.

So far this year only Highland, Tunbridge Wells and Gloucester City Council have added the carton service into their recycling capabilities.

ACE responded to the challenge in 2014 by launching a campaign offering downloadable communication resources and other support to local authorities.

Chartered Institution of Wastes Management deputy chief executive Chris Murphy said: “In 2010 there was probably a good market for cartons but whether a council adds the service now when faced with cuts to the service is doubtful.

“The slowdown is probably down to austerity cuts, but can also be down to the market for cartons making them less attractive to collect.

“Councils may want to collect more glass because it has more weight. They will only go beyond their statutory service when and if they can.”

Adam Read, practice director at Ricardo-AEA, added that carton collection will only be adopted by more councils if public opinion backs the move: “Without a very clear steer from the general public that recycling cartons is a vote-winner, they just don’t have the appeal of paper, cans and bottles.

“Unfortunately cartons are not the easiest of materials to recycle, nor are they a heavy material, so they have tended to be ignored as a non-priority. Unless a reprocessor is offering a great income for the materials or the disposal costs are growing rapidly, there is not enough ‘pull’ to make these materials part of a collection scheme which would require changes in containers, operations and processes.”

ACE also reported that councils had seen a rise in contamination problems at carton recycling banks, with commercial fly-tipping of leaflets, boxes and even boulders and sinks being dumped at recycling points.


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