» Waste and Recycling ¦ What You Can Get Away With

After quite a few months of work through the Task and Finish Group that I chair, I’m pleased to say that our waste and recyling consultation is now live on Colchester Council’s website. It will also be in the next edition of the Courier, which should be landing on doorsteps throughout the Borough in the next week.

If you live in Colchester, then please take a few minutes to let us know your views about waste and recycling, and what we should be doing about them. I know people are cynical about council and government consultations, but I can promise you that this is an open consultation, and we want to know what the people of Colchester think about waste and recycling so we can create a system that’s tailored to your needs, rather than coming up with a system and then attempting to make the people fit into it.

The consultation is ongoing until the middle of January, and there’s also a public event scheduled for December 1st in the Moot Hall, where you can find out more. We’re also in the process of organising meetings with the Borough’s town and parish councils to ensure we get a wide selection of views, so look out for details of that happening in your area.

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Those of you reading this in Colchester may be interested to know that the first part of our consultation on our waste and recycling processes is set to start next month – full details and a survey will be in the next edition of the Courier, which you should receive around the beginning of November. There’ll also be a section on the Council’s website (which I’ll link to when it goes live), as well as public meetings, and we’re looking at ways to organise meetings in conjunction with the various parish and town councils to ensure that we hear a range of views from across the Borough, not just in the town.

And if you’re wondering why we’re going through this process, then take a look at what Hilary Benn is announcing today – government plans to ban anything recyclable from going to landfill. While the percentage level of recycling is often the figure discussed in terms of waste collection, one of the key factors the Task and Finish Group I’ve been chairing has been looking at is the question of how much residual waste goes to landfill at the end of the process because it seemed to us that while increasing the amount that gets recycled is a laudable aim, reducing the total amount of waste produced would become the more important target over the coming years.

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Had a Policy Review and Development Panel meeting tonight, which is a Council committee I quite like being on as it tends to achieve things – even if they are small – and the meetings don’t drag on for hours. More information on everything we discussed here, if you’re interested, including our rather lengthy Tree Policy. Yes, you are allowed to question how many trees were sacrificed to print copies of the policy.

But, the most important thing coming out of there is that it looks as though November will be a busy month, especially for me, as not only is the waste consultation – and I might write a long blog post about that sometime- now scheduled to happen then, but we should also be having another consultation about town centre developments, including the whole question of St Botolph’s and the bus station. Should be interesting, just a question of making sure we have proper consultations, not the usual ‘Do you agree with all our suggestions? Yes/Hell Yes’ type of one, or the Essex County Council-style one, where you consult, get 4,000 responses that disagree with you and then ignore them in favour of the ‘silent majority’.

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Adding the ‘waste and recycling’ category last night reminded me of something – a couple of photos I took at the Council’s waste depot on a recent visit:
Plastic mountain
Plastic mountain

That’s a couple of shots of plastic waiting at the depot to be baled and then sent on to a processor. What I’m wondering is if any of you can guess how much of Colchester’s plastic recycling that represents?

Details: We currently collect plastics every fortnight at the same time as garden waste (the other week is a paper, card, glass and metals collection)and that picture was taken during a plastic collection week, so approximately how much of that week’s plastic collection do you think it is?

(And the use of the term mountain is appropriate, I think – this is big flat East Anglia, after all)

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As a lot of my Council work at the moment is dealing with issues relating to waste and recycling, I was naturally going to find this site interesting (discovered via http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/aug/05/korst-garbage-free). It’s the website of an American couple who are attempting to live for a year without throwing anything away to landfill – within reason, anyway, they have various common-sense exceptions from their rules.

Of course, given that they’re planning to write a book about their experience – and is there some law that when someone says ‘I shall write a book about the time I did X for Y’, Y must equal one year? – there’s an interesting discussion to be had about how much more waste might be produced in the making of a book than they might avoid creating in a year.

But, their project does raise interesting issues about how much avoidable waste we do create in a year, and just how much of what we put out as rubbish could either be recycled or not wasted in the first place. One thing I’ve noticed since making a real effort to avoid creating waste in the last few years is that many weeks the most weighty thing in the black sack we put out on a Monday morning (no, we don’t have wheelie bins here in Colchester) is discarded cat litter, so maybe there’ll come a time in the future when that’s all that landfills contain. Ah, I can dream.

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