Plans to stop collecting waste plastic for recycling have been shelved following mounting criticism - including a stinging rebuke from Environment Minister Dr Therese Coffey who branded Swindon Borough Council's proposals 'regressive and concerning'.
Following a six-week consultation, at least half of the 3,000 members of the public who responded disagreed with the council's proposal to ask residents to throw away plastics with their ordinary household waste - which would then be processed into bales of industrial fuel to be shipped abroad. The majority of those asked also called on the council to introduce food waste collections.
The way Swindon Borough Council manages its waste over the next decade will be decided at next week’s cabinet meeting on December 5 when it sets out its 10-year Waste Strategy.
The council is struggling to meet a legal requirement to recycle at least 50 per cent of household waste by 2020, 55 per cent by 2025 and 60 per cent by 2030. But Swindon’s recycling rate has fallen by 10 per cent over the last five years to 38 per cent and it looks increasingly unlikely that it will be able to meet the 50 per cent target by the 2020 deadline.
The strategy sets out key objectives for the council over the coming years - against a backdrop of growing national awareness of the impact of waste.
Councillor Maureen Penny, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and the Environment, said: "It was never a definite policy. That's why we asked the public for their opinion. People who responded to us were split about 50-50 on it - and many of them were more concerned about whether they would have space in their bins or blue bags for plastics. We've also had conversations with our agent about what happens to our plastic when it is shipped for recycling.
"We are happier that it is recycled properly and not just thrown somewhere, so we're confident there's much less chance that it ends up in the dolphin's stomach."
“We have listened to what people told us during our engagement exercise and over the next few months we will be doing some more work to make sure any changes we make are the right ones for Swindon and its residents.
“Plastics are still a big problem for us and it was made clear in the responses to our engagement that residents feel the same way. I look forward to seeing what positive changes the Government will propose in their upcoming Waste Strategy and in the meantime I will be asking my officers to do further research and planning.”
The year one plan that councillors will consider also includes increased education, a policy of mandatory recycling, charges for recycling boxes and further research into plastic collections and treatment.
If approved, council officers will undertake planning and research before a final decision on how the plans are implemented is taken in summer 2019.
The matter of responsibly dealing with Swindon’s plastic waste remains a key issue with councillors being asked to advise officers to undertake more research into alternative recycling technologies while waiting to hear the impact of the upcoming Government Waste Strategy.