It’s clear the recycling debate needs impetus and fresh thinking. Whether naming ‘villains’ is the right way to go about it, I’m not so sure. But it certainly puts a spotlight on the challenges the industry faces and on the question about what good recycling really is.
I would argue that the notion of ‘good recycling’ has yet to really filter into public consciousness. We know vaguely that we need to do something (put stuff in different coloured bins, right?). But if I asked you what to do with last night’s messy takeaway pizza box? Most people would put it in recycling, which is wrong. The food and the oils have ruined the potential for that item to be recycled. But how many consumers know this and, more importantly, how do we get them to know this?
Education is key. We need a public awareness campaign, explaining what good recycling is and how and why to do it. Otherwise the dreams of a circular economy will remain just that.
We also need a collaborative approach, working together with commercial bodies and councils to create a unified approach across quality, consistency and collection.
The issue isn’t just Lucozade bottle tops or Pringles tubes. It’s a lack of consistency that’s permeating across the whole of the recycling industry. Brands and councils need to work with households and reprocessors to ensure a consistent approach.
We would like to see a system which separates fibres and food, uniformly applied across all councils and communicated with clarity. Only then will householders be able to confidently and accurately place out for collection a common set of materials and food waste for recycling.