Councils and local waste authorities are frustrated at the government backtrack on recycling strategies which forced them to scrap plans that were five years in the making.
North London Waste Authority (NLWA) accused the government of headline-grabbing as they axed the so-called seven bins policy then claimed it was never a policy to begin with.
NLWA, the second largest waste authority in the UK, Waltham Forest Council and Hackney Council are concerned that the government’s recent announcement of scrapping the seven bins policy is merely a distraction to delay meaningful action.
NLWA chair and Waltham Forest councillor Clyde Loakes said: “The government is at least consistent on being inconsistent when it comes to action to improve recycling, with constant dither and delays.
“The government proposed its consistent collections reforms in 2018 and even now – a tortuous five years and four Secretaries of State later – many important details are still unclear.“
Prime minister Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday that the seven bins policy, part of the ‘Consistent Recycling Collections’ strategy outlined in the Environment Act, is being scrapped, along with other environmental policies.
The seven bins policy would have seen households given guidance to separate their recycling into seven different bins.
Sunak stated: “The proposal that we should force you to have seven different bins in your home. I’ve scrapped it.”
NLWA said it would have preferred clarity around the seven bins policy. Instead, the government will introduce another recycling scheme, Simpler Recycling.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) claimed this policy aims to make recycling easier for households and waste collection authorities.
Loakes said the objective of the former Consistent Recycling Collections, or what Sunak was referring to as seven bins, was to ensure that local authorities can collect all types of waste that is recyclable, not to dictate instructions on the number of bins.
A Defra spokesperson said: “The Environment Secretary will shortly introduce a smarter approach that responds to feedback and forges a new path on reuse and recycling.
“The new Simpler Recycling system, to be outlined shortly, will ensure all homes in England can recycle the same materials, ending the confusion over what can and can’t be recycled.
“Our plans will make recycling easier for everyone and ensure we continue on track to meet our net zero ambitions.”
Sunak has faced criticism for claiming that net zero ambitions will still be met while rolling back on multiple green policies, including delaying the deadline on the sale of new diesel cars.
Loakes said: “The lack of clarity and inaction by the government merely sows confusion and sends mixed messages to business and residents.
“We need decisive action, timings for any changes, and government funding to support local authorities’ increased costs as a result of any required changes such as compulsory separate weekly food waste collections.“
Addressing the confusion around the seven bins policy, Sunak said he would “never impose these unnecessary and heavy-handed measures on [households]”.
He claimed the commitment to reach net zero by 2050 is unaffected by the government recycling backtrack.
A Defra spokesperson later said: “It was never the case that seven bins would be needed by household.”
The government missed Defra’s target of recycling 50% of household waste by 2020 and is likely to miss the 55% target by 2025, and the 65% target by 2030, according to modelling by sustainable, plastic-free packaging company DS Smith.
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