Why are we recycling?

PUBLISHED: 13:07 19 November 2007 | UPDATED: 13:04 04 May 2010

I READ with interest Jeremy Friend-Smith s letter regarding weekly refuse collection and his comments regarding recycling targets and I wonder to myself: are we recycling because we want to or are we just trying to meet EC targets? Our Government has pass

I READ with interest Jeremy Friend-Smith's letter regarding weekly refuse collection and his comments regarding recycling targets and I wonder to myself: are we recycling because we want to or are we just trying to meet EC targets?

Our Government has passed the responsibility on to local councils to come up with various schemes to meet these targets with the threat of fines if we don't. We put out boxes for this, bags for that, wheelie bins with chips in and so on yet none of us really know what happens to this collected material - nor do we care, just so long as it goes away and makes us feel better.

In this country, we have a green collection. To most of us that's a free collection of lawn clippings. This service is the singularly most expensive cost to our recycling programme and generates more landfill tax credits than any other scheme. But does it do anything for the environment? How does collecting a bag of lawn clippings, taking it to Waterbeach and turning it into brown fibrous material do anything for the planet? Answer: nothing. All it does is generate credits at a huge cost. The plant at Waterbeach takes in more than 40,000 tonnes of green waste a year which is processed into what we were told would be compost but which is now conveniently called soil improver. What happens to it then? Apart from a small percentage that is picked up by the general public, the majority of the rest gets used on the tip as cover for the garbage. Now the change of category from compost to 'soil improver' becomes clearer, clever. But isn't that the very thing we were trying to avoid? Surely it's up to the tip operator to provide this cover, not me and my expensive lawn clippings. The fact is that it is in the council's interest to encourage more of this waste, not less. More tonnes, more credits. I, for one, can envisage a time when this service will become a financial millstone around the council's neck and will eventually be charged for. After all, why should someone with a small garden subsidise the man with the big garden? Start charging and then see how many recycled green waste bags are put out.

Recycling is a moral issue more than anything but eventually it comes down to checks and balances. The threats of fines just makes us lose sight of what we are actually trying to achieve. It is for governments to really change things, not local councils. Local councils cannot ban all carrier bags, put deposits on cans, make us re-use bottles or at least make them degradable, reduce packaging. The list is endless. If we are unable to achieve these targets then so be it but please don't spend my money chasing flawed schemes for little if no gain. The irony of all these threats of fines is that it is probably cheaper to do nothing and pay the fine than carry on with misguided schemes.

M BARKER, Tower Road, Ely

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