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Green Mayoral Candidate : Waste & Recycling

“We send 55% of our rubbish to be incinerated. That’s disgraceful,” says Penny Remfry, Green Party candidate for Elected Mayor in North Tyneside. “We should be recycling much more than the measly 35% we do at present.”

In the latest copy of the North Tyneside Council’s magazine [1], the Council outlines what happens to our rubbish.

The magazine shows that 55% is turned into energy. That sounds great, until you realise that what it means is that it is being sent to an incinerator. Incineration is hugely problematic because not only is it wasteful of potentially useful material but it also produces a lot of carbon dioxide – the very gas we are supposed to be getting rid of – and other noxious gasses and particles.

According to Georgia Elliott-Smith, an environmental engineer who is taking the government to court on the issue [2], in 2019 the UK had 48 incinerators that poured 6.6 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere – the same as all the emissions from Birmingham and Manchester put together. A further 17 incinerators are under construction and dozens more are seeking planning permission, mostly located in poor areas where residents are not going to complain about the pollution like Teesside (where North Tyneside’s rubbish goes).

Even worse, says Elliott-Smith, “companies like power stations and landfill operators have to pay tax for the burden their pollution creates on society, which means the less they pollute, the less tax they pay. But not incinerators – they do not pay tax as a rubbish disposal route or as a major CO2 emitter.”

This means that incinerators have no incentive to reduce their carbon emissions, and because they need constant feeding they have an interest in councils continuing to provide lots of rubbish. So councils don’t have any real incentive to encourage us to reduce the amount we throw away and recycle more. That’s the opposite of a virtuous circle, a malign one you might say.

If we did separate out more of our rubbish for recycling, what would happen to it? A lot of it is made of various kinds of plastic. Some is recycled – milk and drinks bottles for example – but most, up until recently, was shipped to the other side of the world where we didn’t have to think about it. Now these countries are refusing to accept it, so we need to deal it with ourselves. Hence the increase in demand for incinerators. But we must find other ways of re-using and re-purposing it.

One exciting new avenue for plastic waste is opening up – creating oil from plastics. Mura Technology is building a plant in Teesside which will be up and running in 2022 and will take all the plastic that we can’t recycle at present and turn it into the oil and chemicals from which it is made [4]. As Elected Mayor in North Tyneside I will plan to send as much plastic waste as possible to be made back into oil again – a much better way of dealing with it than burning it. And this will provide an incentive for the Council to encourage us all to put more of it in the recycling bin.

A lot of non-recyclable plastic comes from packaging. Most supermarkets now are aware of the issue and are beginning to replace some of it with other, recyclable or compostable materials. As Elected Mayor I will be encouraging all stores in the borough to do better in preventing waste by not providing it in the first place, I would also like to see a pilot glass bottle deposit scheme so people will have an incentive to take back their empty bottles rather than leave them outside.

Another avenue I shall want to explore is that of repairing and re-purposing of goods and materials. So much of our white goods and electronics end up in the bin because it’s cheaper to buy new rather than repair. Manufacturers have a responsibility here, to take back their goods at the end of their life and make it easier to repair them by making manuals and parts more easily available. But even without this assistance there are more people learning how to repair, renew and re-purpose. I would like to see the Council encourage this kind of activity through schools, colleges and in the private sector.

At present North Tyneside Council deals with 94,000 tonnes of waste a year. “I want to see this amount of waste reduced considerably over the next 4 years,” says Penny. “As Elected Mayor I will set a target to reduce it by 5% over that period. That will mean working with manufacturers and retailers to stop waste being generated in the first place as well as residents putting less in the bin. We all want a cleaner environment and this is one way we can make it happen.”

Notes

[1] https://my.northtyneside.gov.uk/sites/default/files/web-page-related-files/ONT%20-%20SPRING%202021_WEB.pdf

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/25/legal-challenge-uk-exclusion-waste-incinerators-emissions-trading-scheme

[3] www.crowdjustice.com/case/make-incineration-polluters-pay/

[4] https://muratechnology.com/news/mura-announce-teesside-project-commences-build-new-partnerships/

For Information on the Regional Campaign to stop the new monster incinerator in Teesside, please visit the Campaign via our Regional webstite: https://northeast.greenparty.org.uk/campaigns/