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Friday, 24 October 2014

Waste Hierarchy and Landfill Diversion

By a somewhat circuitous route, I learn that the green waste charges are seen as possibly increasing recycling levels.  I think this unlikely.  Whatever the other merits of charging for garden waste _ and I can certainly understand the point about financial necessity _ I suspect that the new system is almost bound to lead to a reduction in measured recycling.

There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, waste that is composted (which is environmentally and financially more desirable than the Council collecting it) will not count towards a recycling target.  That is perhaps a comment on the importance of not allowing targets to overcome objectives since in that case lowering the recycling actually achieves the policy aims better.  The second is that the former Environment lead apparently expected the reduction in garden waste to be offset by an expansion in food waste collections. 

I think this reasoning is flawed.  I regretted at the time that the policy was not properly explained in the report before members or analysed by Scrutiny.  The lead member for environment at the time has now been replaced by the first ever Brent Executive member to be simply appointed without an internal Group election (a retrograde step in my view).  The previous member appear to believe in the article quoted above that only 60,000 households in Brent had a food waste collection.   In fact this has been untrue since 2012.  The food and garden waste collection that covered 60,000 households was in that year supplemented by a food waste collection to an extra 28,000 households.  This had some success, although there was a problem in take up in some areas such as Kilburn.  I understand that the Council is extending food waste collections to flats more, but the reason that this is only happening now because by definition those are the areas hardest to get to.  Again it is frustrating that the reasoning and analysis behind this policy has simply not been made public in the way it should have been. 

Another point is whether the recycling target is a bit out of date, and should be replaced by a landfill diversion target.  This accords well with waste hierarchy principles.  West London Waste Authority (WLWA) already leads on reducing wasteWLWA is now locked into a new procurement coming into force in 2016, which will eliminate almost all landfill from West London  waste disposal, so effectively Brent is already committed to this policy. 

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