Local councils and the environment department (DEFRA) have faced unhelpful criticism from the parts of the popular press who want to tell us how to manage our domestic waste. DEFRA’s waste review this week met with front page headlines in the Daily Mail decrying that every house would have to have a “slop bucket” to recycle food waste.
The Daily Express agreed that the government had given up the idea of having weekly waste collections for all households.
But how can councils lead a debate on the best way to handle waste with such overbearing criticism from parts of the media that have little appetite to discuss what’s needed or consider the major green gains from recycling more food waste?
Residents can be forgiven for wanting weekly collections of food waste, which is likely to smell and become infested with maggots if not speedily dealt with. And people who live in flats may have little room to store waste for long periods.
But many councils have understandably reduced some waste collections to once every other week. This allows them to split resources between collection of many kinds of recyclables and residuals – the dirty bags and stuff which is unlikely ever to get recycled.
And the amount of waste which goes into the residual box is becoming less and less as councils set up recycling streams for more and more.
It is difficult to hold a national conversation about these things, because the 400 or so local councils each follow their own recipe about how it is to be done. But there are certain key principles that the media can cover, including the need:
- To keep biodegradable waste out of landfill to reduce methane emissions
- To reuse packaging materials such as paper, metals and plastic waste, ideally close to home and not in China
- To turn glass back into glass, and not reuse it as aggregate
- To realise the material value of waste electrical and electronic equipment
- To find a sensible way of reusing the furniture we throw out of our homes.
We may not like the way our councils decide to overwhelm us with different bins or a complex regime of collections. These are conversations to be had at a local level.
But giving us all sensible coverage about how to manage domestic waste in the media would be a good start. Let’s have more of it!