While the fight is not over against the incinerator being placed at Javelin Park, the avenues of attack are diminishing and the chances of success are becoming slimmer against this narrow-minded County Council. But even if we are successful, it is time to start considering the question about what next? Even if the incinerator is not built, we have to ensure that we do not just throw everything into it and have a positive plan about how to dramatically increase recycling rates, and this is not just increasing what people do in their home, but making it easy on domestic and business people to recycle as much as they can in order that the amount we have left over really is as small as we can get it!
According the County Councils own figures, then the recycling rates are becoming better, but speaking to people and my own experiences we can still do a lot more. And talking across the County, there are 6 different schemes in action, some can recycle cardboard, others can not, some deal with food waste, others don’t, yet the County Council has to deal with the end product. So in reality, the Incinerator will be dealing with some food waste, that can be dealt with by alternative means by an already functioning process in Gloucestershire, it will also be dealing with cardboard, which again is already being dealt with.
Also from a process point of view it is madness for the City/District councils to pick up the waste, to hand it off to the County to deal with. It means the County have no real input into the recycling rates and can only get what they are given. So how they think they can influence anything is beyond me. We need positive discussion and action for the future to have a comprehensive and joined up strategy that is good value for residents (tax payers) and is efficient and effective. While there is a waste strategy document, is it a comprehensive and systematic approach? Do people actually know it exists and where to look for it? I would normally provide a link, but maybe I shouldn’t in this case, to prove the point.
There are a number of routes we can take, or even more than one. I think a great step for this would be for the District/City authorities and the County Council to combine the waste services under the County Council, or at least the direction/control of it. This would make the 6 districts provide the same set of recycling and collection services. And when competing a much larger scale of waste collection, a much better deal can be delivered therefore saving money. In fact, I would be in favor of losing the boxes that we have, and replace with blue wheelie bins where all the recycling can go. Better storage, less mess and much tidier in the garden. Granted the vehicles would have to change as well as the process but that can be worked out.
Another step would be to build a waste sorting plant beside the incinerator/Landfill which rather than kerb-side sorting, all the recycling goes to one place and is sorted there. It will make much more efficient collection and it could even be the case that the black bin rubbish could go there too and be properly sorted. That would all need costed and planned, but it would hugely increase the recycling rate, and create more jobs.
The other side is how to encourage people to waste less and this would be a combination of education, advertising and incentivising. Still thinking on the incentives, but there must be something we can do.
The argument against all this is that it costs money, which is true, but the Tories seem to be happy to throw £500m at the incinerator so there is funding somewhere. And at the end of the day, this is our environment and local neighbourhoods we are talking about, and dealing with our own waste, I don’t just want to see everything going up in smoke, we need to keep up, and step up the recycling and more importantly have a solid plan for doing so. We need to make it easy for residents and businesses to recycle, not just for cost purposes, but for the purposes of making our county a better place to live. The incinerator, if built, should not be the end, but a constant reminder about the need to reduce the amount of waste we send there!