This below was a response to a “consultation” request from the Council I’ve just found on my computer. It’s interesting to look back to see just how right you were and how not a blind bit of notice was taken of anything that I said at that time. (29th February 2004). Certainly I never received a reply.
In fact it’s through such nonsense as these sorts of “consultations” - where the authorities end up doing precisely what they had decided to do in the first place - that is giving government such a bad name, and alienating the politicians (that and all the corruption and scams that are going on!).
I’ve read somewhere in a report that Britain’s waste collection system is a time-bomb waiting to blow. We are already seeing the beginnings of people losing their tempers with the politicians. And with increasing penalties, more and more disposal rules,
chips-in-bins, the waste-police picking through our rubbish and
ever increasing costs of collection it’s not hard to see why!!
(from 29th February 2004)
Councillor Consultation Comments/Questions
on the Proposed New Waste Management Initiatives.
THE DESIRE TO BE SEEN TO BE DOING SOMETHING. What worries me is that the Authorities,making it look as though "something is being done",ignoring the real causes of waste (time, energy and used in its manufacture; modern, even fraudulent, methods of selling and accountancy; lack of"waste not want not"; etc).The present blinkered approach is creating an expensive and unsustainable boom in rubbish , and its illegal disposal-which of course will then be used as an excuse to make present laws even tougher - instead of realising it is present laws that ARE the problem. Likewise, in forcing the move away from landfill sites (from 182 down to 14!) what price must we pay in other forms of pollution and of process and administration? Recycling is fine where it can be made to pay for itself (which under supply and demand is not too often). It seems to me there are too many vested interests who do not want to tackle the waste issue before it is manufactured - and those interests are running the show.
This "New Waste Management Initiative" is imposed by Government, acting under EU directives. Central government is paying (at least some of the cost) for this. Under systems of CPA, Best Value, targets and penalties, etc. set by Government, and following, as we always seem to have to, officer recommendation, we seem to be in a position of being forced to do things which I know to be ill-thought out and even counter-productive.
PAPER As a printer I know that first hand tree pulp produces the best quality paper. It is easily biodegradable compared to most other waste. Recycling paper has the following effects. Chlorines, bleaches and other chemical additives must be used which increase cost and pollute the environment. Fibre quality is reduced and will become untenable if too much of the pulp is used from stock that has been recycled more than a few times. Because sorting costs are enormous and time consuming - it is the sort of work that is more ideally suited to the voluntary sector. Possible pollutants make recycled paper unusable for some high quality work. Large-scale recycling of paper is not commercially sustainable for companies without continuous government subsidy and strict law enforcement. The collection and production energy costs of such a recycling programme have never been properly quantified, but far from being efficient it takes at least as much energy as does the production of ordinary paper.
But perhaps the most important point here is that paper (unlike maybe some other wood products) is actually made from fast growing renewable managed forests. If paper is recycled on the scale the Government intends then these forests will shrink around the world - less forests not more!
GLASS. I am concerned mostly about energy and efficiency costs of glass recycling. The time involved in the collection and sorting of glass. As glass is silicon based I don't think anybody is claiming the resource is in danger of short supply - so the problem here is entirely energy based. Again the collection, sorting, re-melting and re-manufacture use of energy has no real energy advantages over original processes - in fact it makes things worse because there is then duplication in the types of processes involved. Government efforts here would have been much better directed at helping glass manufacturers into a reclamation scheme, something ideally suited to help the voluntary sector I would imagine.
FLY TIPPING The massive administration and enforcement costs of the new waste laws have produced an explosion in fly-tipped waste which this new scheme is bound to make even worse. What extra costs is this going to impose on TBC resources?
ALTERNATIVES. I won't go on but almost every recycled product envisage by Government contains similar problems. The whole scheme is said to want to reduce landfill tonnage because over the next 15 years they intend to close down all but 14 of the UK's 182 landfill sites. This might make some sense in Luxembourg or some other EU country where land is at a premium - but it makes no sense here. According to a House of Commons environmental select committee, the UK will have to install one large new disposal plant every week for the next 14 years - which is really not going to happen. The government plans to meet part of the problem by building 165 giant new incinerators. But these will be so unpopular that it will have to override planning rules to impose them by diktat on resentful local communities. If we can't chuck it in the land or the sea then, like the worst of today's society vandals, we'll chuck it in the air!!
The Government fails abysmally in law or incentive to prevent the waste being produced in the first place, or for helping repairs and recycling of whole products which then need little or no reprocessing costs. I put that down to the fact that bigger businesses need to keep churning out their rubbish, with “engineered-in” limited life, to keep the money coming in. They don't want to see previous sales being re-used and slowing down the market. Where, and if, the Council could encourage repair, swap and resale/donation schemes locally - that is what I would like to see.
TBC POLICY. Obviously as a local council we are forced to comply with Government demands. But why should we pretend that this is anything but bad for Tamworth? Dustbins will only be emptied now once a fortnight - miss one for any reason and it's a month! I do not agree with this. I do not think it necessary to provide a fortnightly collection for garden waste - although at least this sort of waste is easier to dispose of (designed to help out target percentages of redirected waste I suppose!). I am appalled at the cost of this scheme - and the changes it is going to force on Tamworth's people - and I have fears for the longer term in Tamworth as Government money for these schemes dries up - all through the dogma of misguided, careless or even self-interested national politicians. This may be the best method of proceeding as far as Government control of TBC purse-strings is involved - but let's not pretend this is anything but bad news for Tamworth householders.
ENFORCEMENT. At the seminar it was stated that under the new laws TBC Officers could arbitrarily impose penalties on householders who do not recycle properly. Under the circumstances I do not approve of such methods. I would like to see as council policy that this is not done - at least not without the explicit approval from councillors in each instance.
Thank you for this chance to comment.
Cllr Chris Cooke