Birmingham aims to double household recyling with new waste strategy
It is almost unheard of for a Birmingham council meeting in recent times to pass without a blazing row about problems with the city’s waste collection and recycling services.
Wheelie bins aren’t collected when they should be, rates of recycling, already too low, are falling rather than rising, and there’s an epidemic of fly-tipping by people who won’t pay to have their garden waste collected.
These, in any event, are the allegations levelled month after month against the Labour administration by Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors.
The council leadership now has an opportunity to make a big strategic difference because in 2019 its 25-year waste disposal contract with Veolia ES (UK) Limited and Veolia ES Birmingham Ltd comes to an end and will be replaced by a new, yet to be decided operator.
A public consultation into how the council should manage its waste over the next 20 years has been launched with a document, A Waste Strategy for Birmingham, setting out a “vision” for new ways of managing resources to deliver against an ambition for a “cleaner, greener and sustainable city”.
The strategy sets out some extremely ambitious targets, not least aiming to recycle 70 per cent of all household waste by 2030 when less than 30 per cent is recycled at the moment.
There’s a sense of urgency because Birmingham’s population is set to grow by 150,000 people and 40,000 homes by 2031. That’s an awful lot more rubbish to collect and recycle.
The intention, according to Lisa Trickett, cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment, is to reach a stage when the council sends no waste to landfill – at the moment 7.5 per cent is sent.
According to Cllr Trickett, research shows that 60 per cent of everything that is currently thrown out every week in household rubbish, of which half is food waste, has the potential to be recycled or composted.
Cllr Trickett said:
There is a huge challenge facing the city and a large proportion of that waste is food and much more could be done to recycle more of what is being left in the household rubbish wheelie bin.
But despite this challenge, we also have a massive opportunity in front of us. Contrary to public perception, waste is actually a resource that, if managed effectively, has not just an environmental value. It has economic and social worth too.
So, with our current waste disposal contract coming to an end in January 2019, the time has arrived for Birmingham to take a new approach, one of rights and responsibilities in which the council has to deliver good core services but everyone from businesses, to other public sector organisations to individual citizens all have a part to play in partnership with us.
These are our resources and our challenges. What we need to do is identify how we sweat the maximum value from what is ironically called waste.
Cllr Trickett said the new waste strategy would also complement an “ongoing service improvement plan designed to address the reliability and quality of day-to-day waste collection services for citizens”.
Through the emerging strategy document, we propose to achieve our aims by dealing with the causes and effects of waste in our city, firstly by reducing the amount of waste produced, reusing and recycling more frequently and finally recovering energy from the waste that is left over.
It is crucial of course that managing waste as a resource is not done at the expense of improving Birmingham’s economic prosperity. We believe that through realising the value of waste that already exists within our economy we will enhance prosperity in our city, by investing in and stimulating the growth of new technologies and the local waste management sector.
By working closely with a range of partner organisations we now also understand that the way we manage waste and its collection has to become decentralised and flexible in approach because one size doesn’t fit all.
This is exactly why know the ambition must be owned by Birmingham as a whole and we cannot achieve it without input from residents and businesses and we must work with our universities to bring innovative solutions to the fore, and with our schools and communities to make the necessary change happen.
This period of public consultation is a chance for people to have their say, and I would urge anyone with an interest in the environmental wellbeing of Birmingham to have their say through this consultation process. It is only by working in partnership that we can do this.
The deadline for responses is 31st July.
Cllr Trickett will host a special webcast to discuss the waste strategy on 5th July, starting at 6pm.
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