Recycling in Lichfield

Despite its proximity to Easter, Ruth Plant's talk on recycling attracted an attentive audience on Tuesday evening, 18th April to hear her explain the tricky complexities of collecting waste from our homes for recycling.

The statistics were frightening. For instance, the Council handles 50,000 tonnes of green waste, 5,000 tonnes of paper, 12,000 tonnes of cans, 300 tonnes of plastics and 50 tonnes of textiles annually. It does this with 9 kerbside and 6 rotapress vehicles, each manned by three persons. The recyclables go to a bulking up facility at Burntwood, to which similar waste from Cannock, East Staffs and Tamworth Councils is delivered, before it is transported onward for treatment. This can lead, for instance, to some plastics being converted to fleeces and glass reprocessed for new bottles and road aggregate. Some of the composted waste is spread on agricultural land as a soil improver.

Lichfield's commitment to recycling has seen its recycling rate soar from 3% to 48% in 10 years, more than in line with national policy. In fact, the Council had been awarded Beacon Status by the Government so that other Councils are coming to learn how to recycle as successfully. The current national target is 25%, which takes account of the many poorer performers than Lichfield. That target is due to rise to 40% in 2010 and to a national target for all the country of 50% in 2020. So there's more to do for all of us. Ruth suggested that new recycling processes will need to be introduced to deal with kitchen waste, currently banned from composting bins because it needs high temperature composting to destroy any nasty pathogens. Open air green waste composting cannot do this. Ruth told that her staff were looking at ways of dealing with batteries of all sizes and, at a more mundane, but nevertheless important level, tacking the problems of chewing gum. In addition, New European Regulations on the disposal of electrical and electronic equipment where expected to come into force this year too.

The question and answer session was proved to be one of the longest in recent memory, confirming that Society members are committed recyclers!

Roger Hockney
April 2006