In September 2020, as part of Recycle Week, Central Bedfordshire Council‘s (CBC) message to residents was:
‘Recycling just one item, instead of throwing it in the general rubbish bin, means that it will be dealt with in the most environmentally friendly way and means that materials can be reused for a longer lifespan.’
When it was resuming its garden waste collection service, CBC waste operatives attached advice tags to residents’ bins. These tags explained how residents can recycle their garden waste, and included the phrase. ‘Recycling is easy‘.
However, the Council has admitted that these bin tags are single-use items that cannot be recycled. The ‘recycling is easy‘ message has to go in the general household (black) rubbish bins.
“This is a classic case of not thinking things through, but, they aren’t the only ones.
“The Council should have tried to avoid plastic altogether, as we all know the majority of plastic ends up in landfills, incinerators and the environment (not recycled) – none of these options are good.
“We need to change individuals’ and organisations’ mindsets around using plastic as a cheap default option, a bit more creativity and I’m sure they could gave come up with an impactful digital campaign supported by tags made from cardboard or paper, maybe even infused with wildflower seeds for added environmental impact.”
The Chronicle asked CBC why a non-recyclable tag was used, and also, did the ‘recycling is easy’ message only refer to garden waste. Its spokesperson said:
“We choose to use tags over leaflets as it’s unavoidable for residents to notice them so the message we are communicating is received. As well as this, they can be attached quickly and easily by our operatives.
“We have a choice between using non-recyclable and hard-wearing tags, or cardboard tags that fall off or disintegrate when it rains, so we purchase the hard-wearing ones for durability.”
The use of a non-recyclable tag to promote a recycling message “is not ideal”
Adam Zerny, leader of the Independent group on Central Bedfordshire Council, said:
“Central Beds really needs to lead by example on this. We must put more effort into recycling produce like this. What’s more, hardly any of the plastic waste in Central Beds is recycled; this must improve.”
In response to Cllr Zerny’s recycling claim, a CBC spokesperson said:
“We recycle plastic packaging as much as possible as the recycling market allows, and this varies over time. We are currently reviewing our recycling materials processes to maximise our recycling where possible.”
Luton and Bedfordshire Green Party said that the use of a non-recyclable tag to promote a recycling message is not ideal. Its spokesperson said:
“Although it’s a small thing, clearly there is a symbolism to consider, and if the medium is the message then in this case the medium is conveying the opposite message to the one printed on it!
“As a group, the Central Beds members of Luton and Bedfordshire Green Party would suggest that given that important symbolism, we would like to see CBC look harder for a more appropriate material.
“With plastics becoming such a hot issue, a wide range of alternatives are now on the market, including a variety of more weatherproof, yet still biodegradable, cardboard materials which would be suitable for this purpose.
“As CBC rightly point out, these tags are a great way to put a message where it can’t be missed. So spending a little extra time and money to find the right product would have been a fantastic opportunity to show that they were leading by example. It’s a real shame that opportunity has been missed.”
Today (18 March 2021) is Global Recycling Day, and the Government has used the event to announce a new wide-ranging Waste Prevention Programme for England. A Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesperson said:
“Our landmark Environment Bill will transform our waste sector, and how the nation recycles. This will ensure a more circular economy, reducing waste and strengthening our fight against plastic pollution.
“We will make recycling much simpler for households and industry. Measures include consistent collections to enable households to recycle with confidence and encouraging manufacturers to make their products more recyclable.”