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Comment: Get locals involved in planning decisions

The Big Recycle campaign this week is again trying to encourage further recycling among the public around the country. While the premise for this campaign is to recycle more stuff, more often, it would also be useful to get the debate widened to discuss the need to build more facilities at a local level.

The recycling message has moved up the agenda with more coverage on local and national radio and television, as well as in the print media. But as more waste strategies are developed the question of the different facilities required will need to be addressed. Engaging with the wider community on a consultative basis helps to provide greater understanding of the problems faced and generates confidence among the public.

Targeting the variety of groups in a community is essential, as well as getting on board elected members and staff. One local authority that has recently gone through this process found that outlining current activity, setting out targets, outlining the problem and detailing a range of technological solutions provided a good starting point for discussions. During workshops expressed views and questions raised were recorded and if questions could not be answered on the day were followed up with a written answer within a few days. Preparing any strategy takes detailed work but demonstrating that the public has been consulted needs to be shown.

And this communication with all stakeholders can help when developing and rolling out the specific recycling schemes.

Developing integrated waste strategies is a complex process with the need to consider a variety of subjects, including planning, new technologies, licensing, marketing and communications among many others that shouldn't be taken in isolation.

It is clear that this industry will continue to change, particularly with the number of consultations currently under discussion or expected in the summer and autumn.

These include working with the joint waste disposal authorities to change the default levy basis to a tonnage-based levy or charging system and the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) that has a stronger emphasis on waste performance. Failure to meet statutory recycling/composting targets that are less than the national minimum level of recycling will result in a lower overall CPA mark.

The Local Government Association is currently consulting on material resource management to identify best practice and encourage greater participation while the review of the Waste Strategy continues. Among the feedback given so far on this is the need for a longer-term perspective; greater emphasis on non-municipal waste and reduced VAT on recycling and repair.

While understanding the need to make long-term plans this could create difficulties planning over the forthcoming months, particularly as these consultations are likely to result in changes in policy.

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