Update 20 May 2019: The bring banks have now gone. Shropshire Council is slapping itself on the back saying the withdrawal will improve recycling rates.
Most of us use them at one point or another. They are a familiar sight in car parks across Shropshire. They are not particularly pretty. But they are useful and they help boost recycling. They are the 120 recycling bring banks around the county. We have five in Ludlow. But not for much longer.
With its thirst for saving money and disinterest in recycling, the council is planning to take away all the bring banks to save £237,000 a year. The cabinet meets to discuss the withdrawal next Wednesday. I’ll bet my last empty recyclable baked bean can on the proposal being approved.
The move will lead to a reduction in recycling and an increase in fly-tipping.
This is absolutely the wrong move. Recycling rates in Shropshire have stalled, even fallen. The proposal to remove bring banks will only increase this decline.
The council doesn’t recognise that many people live in apartments with little storage for any type of waste. That’s certainly the case in Ludlow town centre. That’s why the bring banks are often full to the hilt. Many of the people using bring banks don’t have kerbsides.
Some of the fly-tipping the council reports is simply bottles and cans left because the bins have overflowed. That’s about effective management. It complains about mixed materials in the recycling bins. That does occur. But there is not a single sign in Ludlow telling people why bins should not be contaminated. And why people should not put cardboard in the paper bins. The council has let the bring banks decline because recycling is not a priority for it.
Shropshire Council is suggesting that residents without storage space should take their recycling to the Craven Arms household recycling centre. That’s nine miles from Ludlow. That’s hardly good for the environment and for many people the journey is impractical. That means that more recyclables will go in the black bin and will be incinerated, pumping the greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere. Incinerators push more CO2 into the atmosphere than gas fired power stations.
The council says that kerbside collection is the answer. It argues that items like clothing can go to charities. Those that work in charity shops might be able to comment on whether that will be a bonus or burden.
The reality is that more fly-tipping will occur. But Shropshire Council need not worry about this. Most fly-tipping doesn’t occur on the highway or public land where the council must clear it up. It happens on private land, mostly farmland. It’s the landowners and tenants that must pay for a licenced waste contractor to clear it up. Most don’t even bother to report it to the council. What’s the point?
Shropshire Council has the misfortune to be locked into a very long contract with Veolia. There is nothing wrong with Veolia but the public finance initiative is not very flexible. If the cabinet approves removal of the bring banks, it will need to renegotiate its Public Finance Initiative contract with the company. Good luck to it in that negotiation. When I pressed for the recycling boxes to be replaced with a single wheelie bin to stop litter blow the reply from Shropshire Council was that would cost an extra £600,000 a year. That’s £600k for emptying one bin rather than a couple of boxes at each household. Perhaps the council doesn’t know that Veolia tips the contents of the boxes into a wheelie bin before loading into the back of the truck. The technology is there but the will to use it is not.
The council should be driving recycling rates up not taking measures that will reduce them. It is cutting back at the very time the government is putting a stronger emphasis on recycling. Shropshire Council is going in the opposite direction. It only cares about making cuts. It only plays lip service to the environment and the future of our planet.