“WE want Leeds to be cleaner, greener and recycling more.
“If we do it properly, the sky’s the limit. I see no reason why Leeds can’t be a self sustaining city.”
So says councillor Mark Dobson, Leeds city council’s cabinet spokesman on recycling and waste.
Throughout National Recycling Week, the YEP has reported on the various strands and contributors to the city’s recycling roadmap.
Leeds aims to hit the 60 per cent overall recycling mark by 2020, 10 per cent above Government targets. Campaigners say we can push higher.
However Coun Dobson is looking way beyond 2020 even - and he is confident we are on the right track.
“Things that were pipe dreams five years ago, we now have,” he reflects, citing electric sweepers in the city centre and bin wagons running on recycled biomethane gas.
“I’d like to see the entire range of options at our disposal.”
The most important factor in the city’s progress so far, he stresses, is the public.
“The council can’t do anything alone without people’s good will, in putting things in the green bin rather than the black, or taking bottles to bottle banks,” he says.
“Even in the last 10 years I have seen a huge movement in people’s habits around waste. It’s resonating with people a lot more.
“Thank you to the people of Leeds for helping us, because without their efforts, we could put in every initiative we like, but it only works because people are making it work for us.”
Coun Dobson stresses that just a few years ago, a 40 per cent recycling target seemed impossible for the city, but now - with radical, sometimes controversial, changes like alternate weekly bin rounds for green/black bins - we are already recycling 44 per cent with a regular summer peak of more than 50 percent.
He believes other initiatives like the Cross Green incinerator and energy plant, and further strategic changes, will push us higher up the recycling league.
“It was always going to be a challenge, but we will get to 55 per cent, of that I have no doubt,” he says.
“However we want to raise the bar.
“We want to challenge ourselves. I think if you set yourself targets that are easy targets, then they are really not targets at all. By having a tough target it makes us collectively raise our own game, which is no bad thing.”
Asked where the city’s recycling roadmap could lead us in the longer term, he says: “In 20 years, we want as much as possible, if not complete, diversion from landfill. It is really wasting taxpayers’ money, and that’s got to change.
“We want a district heating system that can heat municipal buildings, and we want businesses to have this offer available, for example in the Aire Valley.”
The Cross Green plant is due to open in Summer 2016 and he insists it will be a vital part of the city’s recycling journey, pledging that it will be, above all, “a Leeds domestic solution for Leeds waste” which will eventually add five per cent to the 60 per cent target.
Hopes are high, however, that if the city’s direction of travel continues positively, the facility will have “maxed out on what it can offer us”, he says.
“As a city we’ve made massive strides over recent years and we’re well on the way to exceeding the government’s targets for recycling,” Coun Dobson adds.
“That said, there is more we can do and as a council we’re determined to keep pushing forward to deliver more of the changes that residents tell us they want to see. We want Leeds to become a modern, forward-thinking green city in the future and our recycling plans are central to that ambition.”
PLANS IN THE PIPELINE FOR LEEDS’S CONTINUING RECYCLING REVOLUTION
>Alternate weekly collections to be rolled out to 80% of homes by next year, with plans for “bespoke” solutions for the other 20% of homes
>Expansion of summer garden waste services, and further pushes for funding to expand food waste recycling
>Improvements to city’s eight household waste and recycling centres; more promotion of the 450 bring sites and bottle banks
>Work to expand the variety of materials that can be recycled in Leeds green bins (eg, all types of plastics, tetrapaks)
>Exploring anaerobic digestion as a recycling method for city’s food waste as and when it is rolled out
>More vehicles in council’s own fleet running on biomethane and electricity