Hi folks. Since my last post about the mess that is Walsall Council’s botched PR over the domestic recycling service, I’ve had this response from council officer Steve Sharma.
I appreciate Steve’s time, and of course, that of the communications team at Walsall Council. I do take issue with much of what Steve says, and feel that readers will, too. I will respond in time, but at the moment, allowing Steve the right of reply is only fair.
Pleas do comment if you have anything to add.
Steve’s response says:
ENQUIRY from Bob – Brownhillsbob blog – logged on 18/06/12 14:55 – deadline – 18/06/12 00:00
Why has the contract been taken from a local provider, to a less environmentally sensible solution of transporting waste to Leicester?
The contract with the local provider ended and another company won the new contract. Recyclable material collected from residents is deposited at the Councils waste transfer station in Bloxwich and bulked up for onward transport to Leicester. Once the material is sorted it is transported on to factories for re-processing. Overall, from collection to the point of re-manufacture, the amount the miles that the waste travels varies very little between the two contracts.
Why are the council distributing instructions that give the impression that recyclable materials that were formerly accentuated can no longer be accepted?
For reasons we are not fully able to explain, the levels of contamination in the recycling have increased. The contamination levels were unacceptably high so the council needed to act quickly. In the first instance we have removed some of the items from the list that appear to be causing the problems. For example, we have removed food trays as these were being put into the bin with food left on them.
Can we not have a definitive and full list so we know what we’re doing?
We are working on producing some new information but we want to do some consultation with residents first, so that we can format the information in a way that residents like.
Why is your DMR contractor unable to handle the levels of contamination that your previous one was, which in reality are very hard to change and constant throughout the industry?
Despite distributing many leaflets over the last four years of the co-mingled collection service, contamination levels in Walsall are unusually high, we are still getting unwanted items in green bins that we have never accepted, such as nappies, black bags, textiles, food waste and electrical items. We acknowledge that it’s not easy situation to change but we believe that with the right encouragement and working with residents we can achieve a positive outcome.
Where is the evidence that industry-wide recyclers are getting more fussy, when in reality processes are getting better and better at dealing with unwanted material?
Sorting techniques are improving but they are not perfect, the factory can sort different types of recyclable materials but it can’t sort recycling from rubbish. Disposing of unwanted material is expensive and can affect the economic sustainability of the industry. It’s better for all, if residents put the right materials in the green bin and rubbish is eliminated from the recycling stream at source.
Why are you continuing to distribute a leaflet that is causing such confusion, and why no press release correcting it?
The leaflet is not incorrect and we are sorry that it has caused confusion, but we are aiming to get back to basics to redress the serious contamination issue that we are facing.
For further information please contact: Steve Sharma on 01922 653573
sharmasteve at walsall dot gov dot uk
Casepak Materials Recycling Facility
The leaflet is not incorrect – it is incomplete !
Also following my enquiry about recycling shredded paper – I was told its okay but to put it in a black bag – left hand right hand syndrome?
An important distinction, IMO. The leaflet makes no incorrect statements: it does, however, omit information.
Not sure where we’re going with the semantics here. By their own admission, Walsall have distributed a leaflet which has given the impression that the range of materials that can be recycled has been reduced. This is not the case.
I’m asking why that mistaken impression is not being corrected. The range of recoverable material is still the same as before. If not rectified, this will lead to more landfill.
The way I read the statement is that Mr. Sharma stands by the recent flyer, so the only plastics that will be accepted are margarine tubs, yoghurt pots and bottles. Plastics such as carrier bags and food trays will not be accepted even though:
1. They are recyclable materials
2, The Casepak MRF can process these materials. See my previous Casepak link and also http://www.casepak.co.uk/Our_Services/Casepak_Collections_and_Processing_Facility/Recyclable_materials/
“transported on to factories for re-processing”. where are these factories, please?
They’re all over the globe. See page 6 of
The transport distance that Walsall Council is responsible for has increased now that the material is transported to Leicester instead of being processed locally.
they could do worse than point you in this direction:
Would be nice to see the numbers that support Steve’s argument. How many miles does rubbish travel now vs previously? What are ‘unusually high’ contamination rates? This statement is worthy of a Wikipedia entry.
In a council meeting on 12 April 2012 Councillor Ansell reported:
Significant progress continues to be made across our environmental services as well.
We further increased our recycling rate to 49% putting Walsall at the top of Metropolitan
Borough Councils in the country.
It’s a pdf, You will probably need to change the file extension in order to view the document.
Why can the Council not simply run a campaign telling the public NOT to put soiled nappies, food waste, dirty food containers, black bags etc; etc; in the green bins instead of causing all the confusion they have done?? Simples.
You’d have thought that was the logical thing to do, wouldn’t you.
Any idea how much they have saved by changing the contract?
Sue’s right. It’s not as if nappies and black bags are already mixed with something else and it’s surely no more challenging to use the grey bin.
Meat trays can be more of a problem if the spongy stuff on the bottom is glued to the tray, but that is something the recycling industry could do something about.
I wonder if the people who put nappies in green bins are actually using the green bin as an overflow for the grey bin.