Before I went up to Manchester for the Labour Party conference, I attended a meeting with Councillor Angus Ross, who after the May elections took over responsibility for the new waste collection scheme. As meetings go, bin bags aren’t the most exciting of schemes, but after over six months of debating them it was refreshing to be able to discuss it frankly and openly with the man in charge.
There were good and bad points to the meeting, but I was reassured that the purposes behind the scheme are sound, even if I think the details are a little misguided. The fact is that cutting down on the amount of waste going to landfill is a noble aim, both for reasons of avoiding the incurrence of extra cost to the council and for the sake of preserving the environment.
Equally, I was surprised to find good answers to my questions on the sorely limited range of materials which are able to be recycled. The council wants to be able to track the materials they send to be recycled, in order — presumably — to make sure they actually are being recycled. If waste is sent abroad, then tracking it is impossible.
I’d like to see more recycling, but it looks like that’s going to take wholesale investment in recycling as an industry, something which will need to happen at national rather than local level — and with George Osborne squatting on the Treasury and the economy like an anti-green tumour, I think it’s safe to say that won’t be happening soon.
But Wokingham Borough Council could increase the range of materials collected. Glass, for example, and Tetra Paks, which are able to be taken to static sites, but a door collection would be a great boost to take-up.
On the subject of the much-maligned bags, there was acceptance that the bags aren’t fit for purpose, without actually saying that. In fact, I was specifically told that Veolia had been directed to look into a new model of bag. So there’s a partial victory.
But there’s still a partial (at least) obstinacy on the part of the council administration, to accept that mistakes were made. I can understand Cllr Ross’ point that the consultation would naturally bring out a lot more of those against the scheme than those signing it’s praises, but it still seems a stretch when Cllr Ross claims:
“I haven’t seen the breakdown yet, but inevitably a number of people who respond will have concerns and issues rather than the vast majority who are happy.“
I’m not sure a vast majority is happy with it, from my canvassing in the May elections. In fact, I think the vast majority are quite unhappy.
Still, if the problems are addressed, then this will all have been successful. The results of the consultation as well as a recommendations for changes, will be presented to the executive next month. I’d very much like to see a change of bags come out of that meeting, but we shall see what results come back. I don’t want to over-egg the positive murmurs just yet.