In the week it has announced that a new contractor will take over refuse collection and recycling from the end of this month Hastings Borough Council (HBC) has also had to contend with the revelation that it is one of the worst authorities in the country for recycling.
According to the DEFRA figures compiled by waste company InSinkErator, Hastings has a recycling rate of 29.6 per cent – a figure which falls short of the government’s household waste recycling target of 50 per cent by 2020 – neighbouring Rother has a recycling rate of 50.2 per cent.
It makes Hastings the 11th worst area in the South East for recycling, ranking 57 out of 67 local authorities and nationally Hastings comes 318th out of 353 authorities.
Rob Lee, who leads the opposition Conservative group of HBC says: “This is a huge failure by Hastings Borough Council on what should be a leading priority for them and they are now sure to miss the 50 per cent target for recycling set for them by government.”
Mr Lee says that in the nine years since Labour gained control of the council they have had plenty of time to implement initiatives to boost recycling rates but have failed to do so: “This really just showcases Labour’s lack of pride and ambition for Hastings and St Leonards.
“What was even more shocking was the list of weak excuses that have been presented by the council. It is an outrageous slur to suggest that people may be disadvantaged and therefore were somehow incapable of grasping the principles and opportunity to take part in recycling, the council should be taking its responsibilities more seriously rather than blaming the residents for its own failures,” says Mr Lee.
Julia Hilton, Secretary of Hastings Green Party says: “It’s not a great recycling record and I know a lot of people are confused about what they can recycle.
“There has to be more action from our national government to legislate to cut down on the amount of single use plastic that gets used so that all the responsibility for cutting the amount of packaging is not put on the individual consumer.
“With such a big variation in recycling rates across the south east, it seems there is a lot of scope to learn from neighbouring councils such as Rother about tips for good practice. I hope HBC will take note and learn from it’s neighbour.”
And Ms Hilton is concerned about the bigger picture: “My main concern about recycling generally is tracking where it all goes. There were awful images of great bales of plastic, obviously from the UK, slowly breaking up on waste sites across Asia, particularly Indonesia, on the recent War on Plastic programme on TV. ”
Responding to the news of the town’s poor record on recycling a council spokesman said: “Approximately one third of properties receive a weekly residual waste collection due to lack of storage options that mean they cannot accommodate a bin. Residual waste collections are one of the biggest barriers to high recycling rates.
“Hastings has a considerable number of self-contained flats and houses in multiple occupancy with extremely limited space for recycling storage, again presenting a considerable barrier to high recycling rates.
“Hastings does not operate a free garden waste service and therefore our overall recycling rate isn’t inflated with green waste.”
HBC says it will be ‘pushing the recycling message’ as it moves in to its new waste disposal contract with Biffa at the end of this month.
“We’ve also simplified things a bit by allowing glass to be commingled with the rest of the recycling,” the council spokesman said.
However Mr Lee remains disappointed that there has been little sign, so far, of things moving in the right direction: “Residents have not yet received new information through their doors regarding recycling or waste collection with the new provider.
“The glass we have all been diligently separating for many years no longer has to be separated and can go in the green bin. This is interesting as it tells us something we all knew already and that is the glass waste and the green bin waste all get thrown into the back of the same bin lorry on collection day,” he says.
He is critical of the council for not arranging collection of the heavy plastic crates which have previously been used for glass: “The boxes are going to be left with the households that currently have them. So rather than clearing up the tens of thousands of heavy plastic boxes that adorn our passages, front porches and kerbsides all over the borough, they will be left and will add to our already acute plastic problem.
“The Labour administration is noisy on environmental issues but their failure to address their poor performance on recycling highlights (again) that the council believes in words not action.”
Ms Hilton though is more hopeful about the future of the black boxes: “They are pretty useful items so I imagine most of them will be re-purposed. They could make great impromptu planters – I know a few are already being used for that by Ore Community Land Trust.”
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