Campaigners demand more action on West Norfolk recycling levels

Brian Long celebrating success of food waste programme ENGANL00120130516092819
Brian Long celebrating success of food waste programme ENGANL00120130516092819

More still needs to be done to raise recycling rates in West Norfolk, union leaders and environmental campaigners have warned.

New figures have shown that, although the borough is one of the best performing areas in the county for recycling household waste, it still lags well behind the top areas in East Anglia.

But council chiefs say their latest statistics show the area’s total is continuing to rise.

Figures published by the GMB union have revealed that 41.9 per cent of household waste in West Norfolk was recycled in the year to the end of March 2015.

That is the second highest proportion among Norfolk’s district authorities, with only Broadland having a higher total.

But it is only 33rd out of 46 district councils in the region and well short of the European Union’s target for 50 per cent to be recycled by 2020.

The region’s best performing council, Rochford in Essex, has a recycling rate of more than 65 per cent, while Norfolk’s best, Broadland, is just under 47 per cent.

GMB regional secretary Paul Hayes said: “We need a sharing of expertise and knowledge which is vital to bring the recycling underachievers up to the levels of their peers.”

He also claimed that more staff are needed to increase recycling levels and reduce safety risks to workers.

Michael de Whalley, of the West Norfolk Green Party, said ways of separating the different forms of recyclable items from each other should be explored in order to minimise the work needed to separate one group of items from another.

He added: “There’s a lot more that needs to be done in terms of public engagement.”

But Brian Long, West Norfolk Council’s environment portfolio holder, said recent changes to service contracts, which allowed for materials like glass to be put into residents’ green recycling bins, were already showing an increase in the authority’s own figures.

He also pointed out recycling rates had been as low as 18 per cent when he first took over the role and said issues were being addressed across the county through the Norfolk Waste Partnership, of which the borough council is part.

But he added: “There’s no reason why we don’t achieve up there with the very best.”

The figures also show that the amount of waste being incinerated across East Anglia, around 30 per cent, exceeds the total being sent to landfill for the first time.

Mr de Whalley, who founded the King’s Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN) campaign group that led the fight against a proposed incinerator at Saddlebow, suggested that an incentive to increase recycling totals had been lost since the contract was shelved two years ago.

But Mr Long said it was the new contract that had made the difference, adding that recycling totals in West Norfolk did not rise even at the height of the incinerator campaign.

He said: “Even though 65,000 people voted to stop an incinerator, they didn’t contribute towards recycling more stuff.

Last year, Norfolk County Council agreed a four-year deal to send waste to incinerators in Suffolk, Germany and Holland, though officials insist they are committed to finding cleaner long-term waste management solutions.