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Webinar recap: Boosting your local recycling rates

Kitty Thompson (Nature Programme Manager at CEN)

People interact with their local waste and recycling infrastructure on an almost daily basis. It is no wonder, then, that voters often judge the success of their council on bin collections, recycling rates, and the presence of litter and fly tipping in their community.

This also makes it critical that the system works effectively. Last night CEN hosted a webinar to discuss, in light of new Environment Act commitments on waste and resources, how to boost local recycling rates and make the upcoming changes to the system a success.

To discuss how local councillors can boost local recycling rates, I was joined by Trewin Restorick, founder and former CEO of Hubbub, Councillor Marisa Heath, Cabinet Member for the Environment at Surrey County Council, Mike Gardner, Local Authority Technical Consultant at WRAP, and Margaret Bates, Managing Director of OPRL.

The webinar covered a wide range of topics and ideas for councillors to boost their local recycling rates, please see below for the four top tips that emerged from the discussion:

1. Collaboration is key

To make a recycling system a success, there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of different expertise required. Do not feel like you have to do all the work alone. There are many opportunities for collaboration that you should, where possible, embrace.

This could mean working with your neighbouring councils and pooling your resources. Another opportunity is to engage with the private sector. Many brands are acutely aware of the impact their products can have if they end up littering our natural environment and so have an incentive to act and engage with local communities. There are also many large non-profit organisations that regularly partner with councils to test and trial behavioural change initiatives. If you would like to collaborate with another stakeholder to improve your local recycling system, the first step is to get networking!

2. Know your audience

Nobody knows your local community quite like a local councillor and in order for a recycling initiative to succeed, this knowledge must be deployed. Many factors can influence how a community responds to changes to recycling, including demographic composition of the area, the types of buildings that people live in (e.g. a house versus a block of flats), and the transience of the population. These must all be understood and respected when changes are made. The best place to start is to get out there and talk to your community.

3. Make it as easy as possible

A common complaint about the current recycling system is that it is confusing, from the many different recycling labels on a product, to knowing what can and cannot go in a recycling bin wherever you happen to be in England at any moment. It is a job of a local council, therefore, to try and make the recycling process as easy and appealing as possible. From the type and location of an individual bin, to helping residents understand what can and cannot be recycled, there are lots of opportunities for councils to make the recycling system easier to use.

4. Keep one eye on Westminster

From mandatory labelling requirements to universal rules for collection, there are a lot of changes to England’s recycling system coming down the track. The Environment Act included many proposals to improve the recycling system in England, although some are awaiting the secondary legislation to provide the necessary details for local authorities to put them into effect. Staying on top of these updates will be essential for planning ahead and knowing what steps you will soon need to take.

Thank you to OPRL for kindly sponsoring this webinar.


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