bins waste rubbish

The government’s long-awaited plans to bring about consistent local authority recycling were published over the weekend, with industry expressing hopes it could be a first step towards sorting out its chaotic recycling strategy.

Plans for consistent collections, already months overdue, were thrown into even more confusion last month when prime minister Rishi Sunak said he was “scrapping” plans that could have forced all homes to have seven bins.

Now rebadged as Simpler Recycling, the hastily modified proposals from Defra will mean all local authorities will be required to collect glass, metal, plastic, paper and card, food waste and garden waste, by the end of March 2026. Weekly food waste collections will be introduced.

Food and drink bosses gave a guarded welcome to the proposals but said far more needed to be done by the government to address holes in its recycling strategy. This included tackling the major issues surrounding its also delayed introduction of extended producer responsibility (EPR).

Tackling the huge inconsistencies in local collections has been seen as a huge barrier towards effective recycling. There are more than 390 different local authorities across the UK, with around 40 different bin regimes, many of which are completely at odds with neighbouring councils.

Defra figures show that in 2021, 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste was generated, with just 44.4% recycled.

The department has been under pressure to publish the plans and was poised to do so last month before Sunak’s intervention as part of his attempt to reposition the government as the “voice of reason” on the environment.

“We’re pleased to see the government publishing their much-delayed plans for Simpler Recycling today, and making a first step towards creating the conditions necessary to establish a circular economy in the UK,” said Jim Bligh, director of corporate affairs and packaging at the FDF.

“Making it easier for households to recycle the same materials wherever they live in England is critical to driving up England’s recycling and reuse rates.

“Food and drink producers will soon be paying an annual bill of £2bn to fund EPR.

“Getting Simpler Recycling up and running quickly, efficiently and effectively is therefore important to us and government will need to act decisively to ensure sufficient investment now goes into Britain’s fragmented and dated recycling infrastructure.”

Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the BRC added: “We welcome the publication of the government’s plans, which we hope will result in more recyclable material being collected through kerbside collection.

“Such consistency across England will allow for simpler messaging from retailers to support their customers’ efforts to recycle. What we still need to see is the comprehensive plan to deliver a meaningful shift in recycling rates in the UK.”

Packaging body Incpen also welcomed the move and said there was “massive public support” for consistent recycling policies across the UK.

CEO Paul Vanston said: “Consistent recycling and labelling policies are hugely supported by the public across the whole of the UK.

“When added to the many calls from manufacturers, brands, retailers, councils and waste management sectors for the government to publish the policies from the 2021 consultation on consistency, the common public and industry message is ‘let’s get on with it’.”