Why the UK could be penalised for cutting down on paper & packaging
Official figures released on Tuesday have explicated that there has been a stagnation of household waste recycling rates over the last year, with rates only reaching 44.2%, a figure barely higher than the 44.1% experienced in 2012. This apparent failure to hit the required recycling rates does not come without consequence, though. Indeed failure to reach the 50% recycling quota for household waste by the year 2020 could lead to the country being fined in excess of £500,000 per day; a figure that England simply cannot factor into its already overstretched budget as a nation.
Less packaging, less recycling
Recycling rates are measured by weight, so if the total weight of the materials being put to recycling do not meet the amount required, it must be considered why this may be. When pooling figures from 2012 about recycling rates, one of the central reasons for the decline in the total weight of the amount being recycled was due to a serious cutback on paper and packaging. As consumers are more aware of the importance of stamping out wasteful habits and the generation of excess packaging, there has been a decrease in the amount of paper and packaging being used and thrown away, with households around the UK opting instead for technological means of correspondence such as bills. As well as this, consumers are buying less glass, choosing plastic containers instead, which – combined with an overall downsizing movement in existing packaging – has led to the amount of material being generated and, thus, recycled, experiencing a huge hit and subsequent decrease.
This reduction in the general abundance of packaging and paper utilised by our nation as a whole is undoubtedly a positive thing, yet thanks to the targets set for recycling rates, it is being viewed in a somewhat less positive manner by those setting the targets. The reasons behind this stalling in England’s rate of recycling are recognised by recycling industry bosses, such as Pete Dickson of Biffa who noted that consumers are buying less packaged goods, and therefore less recyclables.
“A victim of our own success”
However it should be noted that there is not a simultaneous increase in the amount being thrown away in black bin bags; rather, a general decrease in waste levels altogether, something that should surely be seen in a positive light. Indeed Philip Davies MP spoke of this hostility towards such a positive movement, stating “It seems to me it would be completely idiotic if we were to be fined for being a victim of our own success”, and that this kind of situation is likely to arise when “arbitrary targets” are set, as the changing behaviours of the people in question are not adequately taken into account.
Despite no evidence of a dramatic increase in black bin bag waste alongside this reduction in recycling, radical measures such as introducing “skinny” wheelie bins to place a physical limit on how much can be thrown away by households in black bin bags. The likelihood of reaching the recycling target by 2020 may be becoming less and less likely, but drastic measures such as this are viewed by some as short-sighted and – indeed – the lack of positivity about the general reduction in waste disposal, recyclable or otherwise, is a great shame for a nation that are displaying evidence of positive changes in their wasteful habits.
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