The Council has decided to trial stopping the separate plastics collection in summer 2019.
Residents would be asked to put plastic in their black bin instead. Should the trial be successful the date for the change in collections across the entire borough will be agreed in due course but is likely to be towards the end of 2019.
The Council does not recycle waste itself but instead relies on other companies to take Swindon’s waste to be recycled. The UK as a whole relies on other countries to recycle plastic because we do not have the markets to do so here. This means that currently ends up either in Turkey or South East Asia .
Blue Plant 2 first highlighted the world’s plastic problems. Since then the Financial Times, the Guardian and the National Audit Office amongst others have highlighted concerns that international plastic markets are not properly regulated and UK plastic could be ending up in landfill or worse. The international recycling market is also closing its doors with China refusing plastic in March and other countries looking to do the same. This means there is a risk there is nowhere for us to send our plastic because there is no UK market for the plastic we collect.
Meanwhile the Environment Agency is investigating the plastics recycling industry amid reports firms are illegally profiting from the market and in some cases polluting rivers. Issues with plastic waste exported for recycling have been highlighted by both Greenpeace’s ‘Unearthed’ and Sky News’ ‘Ocean Rescue’ campaigns, along with many reports in the national media.
Until there is greater confidence and stability in global recycling market, the Council has decided to temporarily suspend the separate plastics recycling collection. In the interim period, we have the alternative option of processing Swindon’s plastic waste through our existing specialist solid recovered fuel (SRF) plant. This will likely stay in place until we replace our recycling lorry fleet around 2020.
Our SRF plant which we have been using since 2014 sorts and dries household waste into fuel which is sent to Europe and used by cement plants, replacing the use of fossil fuels.
During our engagement we received a lot of feedback from residents concerned about how this would impact them. Because of this we will be starting a trial in June 2019 to test putting plastics in the black bin before rolling it out to all residents. The location of the trial will be decided in the coming weeks and the wider roll out would not take place until late 2019.