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It all depends how you wrap it up

Some things at new year are far from new, and media reports about waste and recycling are most definitely in that category. Almost as depressing as the level of seasonal waste is the eagerness of news outlets to jump on an anti-bureaucratic bandwagon fuelled by negative stories concerning councils’ recycling regimes.

There was plenty of inflammatory material in the well-meaning advice from Derby Council staff trying to help residents cope with reduced collections during the holiday period.

They would probably not have attracted press attention if they had stuck with obvious suggestions such as buy less food, reuse boxes for storage or get the children to compete to see who is best at squashing packaging.

What guaranteed (unwanted) national coverage was this unfortunate advice: “You can also put food waste in the freezer to stop it going off and smelling, until your next bin collection is due.”

The Express was not alone in having a field day. You’ll get the drift from the headline, ‘Councils are talking rubbish instead of collecting it’, and the article trots out various ‘facts’ about recycling that go unchallenged. The paper did not publish a single comment in response from the local authority.

The Daily Mail, at least, did acknowledge the official Derby view in its version. Councillor Asaf Afzal, responsible for refuse collection, said the move would save more than £100,000, adding: “We don’t want to be in this position, but the austerity cuts coming from Government mean we have to and it means the binmen get to spend Christmas with their families. It is only one collection (per household) and I’m sure people will manage.”

Unsurprisingly, Derby council’s top tips did not make Twelfth Night and were removed from its website (see below).

Then there was the saga of the dreaded glitter-coated wrapping paper. In an article entitled ’Christmas recycling shambles’, the Mail said it was a ”festive farce” that cards and wrapping with glitter or a metallic finish were being sent to landfill because paper mills were rejecting consignments ”contaminated” by such packaging. Councils’ different policies for such ‘glitter’ paper is blamed, allied with ”complicated waste regulations” which the article says are accounting for the falling recycling rate in England.

Credit here to the valiant efforts of Bolton Brothers. The Suffolk recycler, which began in the paper business in 1969, engaged with those commenting on the article online.

Its contribution read: ”Unlike this newspaper article, the recycling infrastructure in the UK is not a ’shambles’ at all. All types of paper, plastic, cardboard and metals arising from the householder can be recycled. It doesn’t matter whether there is glitter or sellotape connected to the paper or packaging – this is all extracted from the pulping process at the paper mills. Our family business has been in the recycling industry for over 45 years therefore we are at the forefront of what the paper mills require on a global basis.”

And the company tweeted: ”Despite the Daily Mail recent reporting on recycling, there’s no issues in Suffolk recycling wrapping paper!”

There are notable exceptions to the routine council/recycling bashing. The BBC’s cbeebies website offered five top recycling tips for younger viewers, while regional broadcasters celebrated efforts at a Cheadle Hume school where the pupils organised a Christmas lunch with unsold supermarket food

Pride of place, though, goes to the Independent which published an article shortly before the celebrations: ’How to stop Christmas waste and the thousands of tonnes thrown away each year’.

Seasonal excess of all sorts is covered by the journalist, including a contribution from Eunomia’s Joe Papineschi, who points out that fewer collections can act as an incentive to consumers to think about their packaging habits.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the communities department’s top tips for disposing of Christmas trees: with burning on a bonfire listed alongside the more acceptable applications of the waste hierarchy.

Derby council screen shot

Derby council screen shot

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