Public asked to feed in to Council’s Waste Strategy

Swindon Borough Council is looking at a range of options to increase recycling and reduce waste across the borough as part of its new draft Waste Strategy.

Published: Friday, 7th September 2018

Swindon Borough Council is looking at a range of options to increase recycling and reduce waste across the borough as part of its new draft Waste Strategy.

The Council is seeking the views of residents to inform the strategy, which will be presented to the Council’s Cabinet on 5 December. It aims to address new government guidelines on recycling and waste reduction, Swindon’s growing population over the next ten years, as well as the ongoing issues relating to plastics recycling.

The Council’s drive to improve recycling rates is linked to the EU Waste Framework Directive, which sets a legal requirement for the UK to recycle at least 50 per cent of household waste by 2020.

Earlier this year further targets for recycling of 55 per cent by 2025 and 60 per cent by 2030 were introduced and the UK government has indicated these will remain in place after the country has left the EU. 

Swindon’s recycling rate has fallen by 10 per cent over the last five years to 38 per cent and the draft Waste Strategy will set out the high level principles for how the Council will manage the borough’s waste, along with some specific measures to improve the recycling rate over the next 12 months.

One of those measures relates to a temporary proposal to use the Council’s innovative solid recovered fuel plant (SRF) to turn Swindon’s plastics into fuel, which would replace the use of fossil fuels across Europe. The plant, which is located at the Household Waste Recycling Centre in Cheney Manor industrial estate, is the only one in the UK to turn household waste into fuel. It currently deals with all of Swindon’s black bin waste, preventing landfill.

This measure would involve residents putting their plastic into their black bins or blue bags. The main benefit of returning plastics to the black bin or blue bags is to prevent the risk of it ending up in overseas landfill or worse.

Until recently a significant portion of UK plastics were sent to China, but the poor quality of the material led to China announcing a ban on imports of plastic waste in January 2018. This has meant the UK recycling industry has had to find other countries that are able to take this waste for recycling.

In July 2018, the National Audit Office – the public spending watchdog – published a report raising concerns about whether UK plastic waste exported for recycling actually is recycled and not sent to landfill in other countries. Therefore the proposal to deal with plastics locally would ensure the Council takes control of the destination of Swindon’s plastic waste.

Another benefit of this approach is that it may drive up recycling of other materials aside from plastic as it would result in less room in black bins or blue bags for materials such as glass, cans and paper/card.

The Council does not consider this to be a long-term solution and when plastic recycling becomes more environmentally-friendly and cost effective, the reintroduction of a plastic collection service would be considered.

A six-week engagement process, which starts next Monday (10 September), will also ask residents what they think about proposals to stop collecting black bins that contain excessive amounts of recyclable waste. Last year 1,556 tonnes of metal cans were put in black bins, costing the Council and Swindon taxpayers almost £190,000 in disposal costs when they could have earned an income as clean recycling.

Residents will also be asked for their comments on a charge for additional recycling boxes as part of the engagement process. This is to reduce people taking advantage of the free recycling box delivery service which currently sees over 22,000 boxes delivered each year.

People will be able to feed in their views via an online survey and also through a series of events over the coming weeks.

Councillor Fionuala Foley, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and the Environment, said: “Swindon’s continued growth, coupled with challenging recycling targets means that the way we currently deal with waste will not be fit for purpose in the years to come.

“Put simply, we need to recycle a lot more and we want to hear from residents on what they think about some of the measures we have proposed to achieve this within the draft Waste Strategy.

“We are incredibly fortunate in Swindon to have the UK’s only solid recovered fuel plant for household waste so we have a unique solution for dealing with plastic waste that guarantees it does not find its way into landfill overseas or is simply discarded into the environment.

“The Waste Strategy is all about ensuring we collect the waste and recycling from our residents in the most cost effective, efficient and environmentally-friendly way and this is a great opportunity for residents to tell us what is important to them.”

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