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So, the Localism Committee hasn’t met in almost a year. You’d kind of expect that this Committee isn’t that engaged with really progressing the local agenda; as demonstrated by Mr Pickles announcing this summer past that he was making £250m available for councils to reintroduce a weekly residual waste collection service. This doesn’t appear to be very loc-ocentric. Here we have the Minister responsible for local communities effectively giving a “steer” to councils to adopt an approach generally considered to be regressive.
Then, last autumn, we had DEFRA cancelling PFI credits for seven waste projects, which had been going through procurement for years. This caused consternation for some of the councils/groupings by raising fears that they would not achieve their targets (more of which later).
Now, Mr Pickles is at it again. He’s spoken with his colleagues in DEFRA, a consultation paper has been released which proposes amending councils’ powers to penalise householders for contaminating bins, either for putting the wrong items into a recycling bin or for putting recyclables into a landfill/residual waste bin… The general thrust being that councils should be making it as easy as possible to recycle, as everyone wants to do this and penalising householders for the occasional oversight will not advance this aim. This reinforces Mr Pickles earlier, and equally loc-ocentric comments, that “it’s a basic right for every English man and woman to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected”.
All the while, the different administrations strive to outdo each other by setting higher recycling targets for their regions – Scottish and Welsh councils already have to reach a 70% recycling rate over the next decade or so. Northern Ireland is toying with 60% while England is debating whether to stick with the EU revised Waste Framework Directive target – a mere 50% recycling by 2020.
No matter which jurisdiction you’re based in, these are audacious targets for councils. Achieving them is dependent upon councils introducing new collection services, waste treatment and disposal facilities, and householders adopting a different approach to managing their wastes. Change is rarely easy, and the cost of the new facilities will not be cheap but, based upon experience to date, the best performing councils provide a weekly food waste collection service combined with fortnightly collection services composed of (i) a residual waste service (ii) a dry recyclables service (either boxes or bins depending upon the council’s circumstance) and (iii) a charged garden waste collection service. The materials from these collections are then sent for treatment and/or disposal in a variety of facilities.
Now, we’re in a really interesting place. We have annually increasing targets, a ticking clock, additional capital and revenue expenditure and reducing options on how we engage with our householders. The next couple of years will be very telling; can we make transform ourselves into a “recycling society” as the EU and the UK aspire, or will we flounder in the lower ranks of Member State recycling performance as many predict… Time (and councils’ action) will tell!
Immediate Past President of LGTAG
For 10 years local authorities have been encouraging schools to be involved in sustainable travel planning with various degrees of success and very little clear scope for future-proofing the excellent work in developing school travel plans. This was followed a few years ago with new legislative responsibilities for sustainable modes of travel to school. How have local authorities coped with these new duties? Well Gateshead Council has developed a web-based curriculum tool for primary schools – TravelMatters. Check it out!
www.travelmatters.org.uk is an innovative new website, developed by Gateshead Council and dedicated to promoting sustainable travel to primary pupils in the classroom. It was created to take account of the need for widespread dissemination of the relevant messages and contains ready-to-use resources for teachers to download. As such, it is an efficient and economic way of promoting sustainable travel to pupils.
TravelMatters’ resources give pupils and teachers information, motivation and practical ideas for travelling sustainably. They fit neatly into existing subject areas, thus aiding busy teachers by not only removing the need to create specific materials for this purpose but also offering high quality resources that help deliver the curriculum. The site also offers an appealing interactive area for pupils.
This curriculum approach to promotion of sustainable travel underpins all other interventions such as Pedestrian and Road Safety Training, Bike It and Cycle Training. It was developed by School Travel Advisers with over 10 years experience of sustainable travel promotion. Their aim was to see the messages embraced as an integral part of a school’s ethos.
Access can be provided to all primary teachers in your area through obtaining an annual licence. Local authority licences start from £700, which represents excellent value for money when broken down into cost per school.