Robert Gordon asks the Executive Member for the Environment and Climate Change to take waste recycling seriously

I am 24 years old and deeply concerned for my future if we fail to appropriately address the ongoing climate emergency.

The changes to our waste system in York and the purchasing of new waste vehicles provides an ideal opportunity for the Council to future proof our waste and environment service in the city. Unfortunately, the unambitious Report presented today has no indication that it will. Instead of taking a proactive and innovative approach to protect the environment for future generations, it encourages more waiting. Waiting for a Government that has time and time again failed on environmental issues. Waiting to tackle the very pressing issue of food waste and waiting to increase the items we can easily recycle. Waiting that is symptomatic of why we are facing this unprecedented, man-made environmental crisis in the first place.

If, as the Report suggests, kerbside food waste collections will put too much financial strain on the Council then this needs to be appropriately researched and costed so that the decision can be justified to residents. The Report itself emphasises the need to explain the rationale for any methodology pursued, but it is unclear to me how the Council’s reasoning could be explained without comparing the costs and carbon savings of various options, including those that include kerbside food waste collections. Around £20 billion worth of food and drink is wasted annually, and to not address this at all would be foolish.

Similarly, the Report suggests not increasing the range of plastics that can be collected and recycled from the kerbside as it is apparently unclear what impact the Government’s plastic ‘deposit return scheme’ will have on household recycling. I think it is very unlikely that this one scheme will mean that the Council is let off the hook for kerbside plastic recycling. Indeed, even the Government’s National Waste Strategy emphasises that all local authorities will be legally required to collect a range of plastics – including food pots and trays – from 2023. Why wait when we could do this now?

Finally, I note the Report today is merely for deciding options to consider when developing the methodologies for waste collections. Anything decided today doesn’t mean the Council will have to introduce kerbside food waste collections, or increase the range of recyclable materials, but to not even investigate this further would be counterproductive. We need to ensure our waste service and new fleet is fit for purpose and future-proof and we cannot do that if we don’t look to a system that reduces waste and increases recycling.

I ask that the Executive Member for the Environment take these comments into account and encourage methodologies to be developed that consider kerbside food waste collection and increasing the range of materials the Council can collect and recycle. These materials shouldn’t be limited to plastics and should include the likes of small electronics, textiles, batteries, and tetrapak – all of which other Councils in the UK can and do recycle. The Council should also consider investing in programmes that reduce food waste at source, e.g. through encouraging behavioural change, supporting community composting, or working with community groups like Yorcafe and Planet Food.

I look forward to seeing an improve waste and environment service that better protects and preserves the environment for my generation and generations to follow.

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