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Sound and fury signifying nothing much

I’d begun to think our 24-hour, global news coverage world had eliminated the traditional ‘silly season’, when UK-based journalists grappled with having to find stories under stones because Parliament was not sitting and courts were on long summer breaks.

Then, within hours, we had both Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘traingate’ and higher contaminations levels being reported in household waste collections. The silly season is not dead after all.

I won’t spend long on the former. But has anyone else noticed in all the sound and fury that Corbyn obviously did not have a seat reserved? Which means he had an open ticket – which are usually much more expensive. You and I have probably paid for that; it’s not something we can do under the expenses regime at MRW Towers.

But where to start on contamination? A sense of proportion would be a good place. First, this is old news. Peter Jones of Eunomia was gamely battling the Daily M**l and others at the turn of the year when the 338,000-tonne total was reported. I’ve no idea why the BBC needed a Freedom of Information request to drag that one out of Defra. [We are currently struggling with a FoI to Defra and wish our request was as straightforward, but that’s for another day.]

Second, there are the figures. I was disappointed at some reactions within the industry that this was a ‘massive’ rise in contamination. Substantial, certainly, but my schoolboy statistics tell me that the contamination tonnage is dwarfed by overall recycling total of nearly 11 million tonnes.

And then we have the reason – or reasons. Domestic confusion over bins and materials? Inadequate council communications budgets? Over-reliance on commingled collections? Fussy processors? The new MRF sampling regime? All of these or none?

On Twitter, I suggested the debate could fill a theatre at RWM for the three whole days of the show. While it is good to have the national media discussing recycling – and helpful for WRAP’s head of collections Linda Crichton to get a chance to promote the issue on breakfast TV – we must all wish the national engagement was wider than this relatively minor topic.

How about the same column inches on the relatively zero growth (statistically speaking) of the overall recycling tonnage? And if England could emulate the Welsh success this week in hitting 60%, we’d be far less bothered about 3% contamination levels.

(For those wondering at the headline, it is meant to be a nod to Macbeth’s famous ’Tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech)

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