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Councils’ budget squeeze hits plastics recycling

plastic recycling

More than half of councils say they have had to cut budgets for collections and communications for kerbside plastics recycling, according to a survey by Recoup.

A Recoup report of local authorities responsible for collections in the UK revealed 51% reported having less money to spend on waste and recycling collections or communications to householders about the service than the previous financial year.

In 2016, the figure stood at 13%. The report said there was an increased demand for engagement with householders in order to obtain less contaminated recyclate, but that “this is one of the first areas to suffer from budget restrictions”.

Recoup called on the Government to consider setting up a national communications fund, supplied through producer contributions.

The report also found a 2.7% increase in the weight of plastic packaging collected from households over the previous year, to 512,475 tonnes.

But there was a small drop in the average yearly amount of plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays collected per household, from 19.88kg to 19.84kg.

Steve Morgan, Recoup technical manager, said: “Making kerbside systems as good as they can be will inevitably lead to higher household plastic collection levels.

“Consumer communication particularly needs financial backing. The question is, over the next two to three years, is there the funding and real desire to carry this forward?”

Stuart Foster, Recoup chief executive, warned that plastics may not be prioritised by local authorities adhering to weight-based targets.

“Changing the targets, changing the metric of the targets, or increasing the financial support through increased producer responsibility are all valid considerations which have been tabled many times before, but not led to any change.

“There is a growing sense that this will not be the case this time around, with the need to increase plastic packaging recycling being a key focus for politicians, media and the producer supply chain itself.”

The survey also found that 13% of councils said they were looking at moving to three or four-weekly residual waste collections.

Of the 13% that changed the frequency of their collections over the past three years, all said this had reduced costs.

In addition, 81% said it had led to increased collection of recycling materials, and 57% said the quality of material collected had improved.

Recoup highlighted Bury Council for saving £800,000 through changing to a three-weekly collection.

The survey covered more than 70% of UK collection authorities in the 2016-17 financial year.

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