Recycling Week: Is Leeds falling behind its neighbours?

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WHY is it that Halifax is able to recycle drinks cartons, but Leeds can’t?

Our neighbour is - it seems - blazing the trail for new recycling technologies, housing the country’s first Tetrapak recycling plant.

One of the key green bin ‘don’ts’ in Leeds is Tetrapak materials - used in drinks and milk cartons, for example.

Technology to allow the separation of the metal film from the cardboard is relatively new, and Leeds is yet to sign up to it.

But Calderdale council now has it - and it has helped the authority reach a 60 per cent overall recycling rate, light years ahead of Government targets which demand 50 per cent by 2020.

Bradford too has managed to reach a 51 per cent target already.

Leeds, meanwhile, is on a respectable mid-table 44 per cent, and steadily rising.

Simon Bowens, lead campaigner in the North for Friends of the Earth, believes Leeds has not been ambitious or quick enough in embracing newer technologies and the city’s recycling is “beginning to flatline”.

“We have done as much as we can within the framework of what we are collecting at the moment,” he said. “But actually we need that extra step to get up to those kind of figures.”

He said it was “just crazy” that Leeds can’t recycle Tetrapaks yet. “It’s on our doorstep, and yet we can’t put Tetrapaks in our green bins and you have milk cartons and drinks cartons going to landfill.”

Mr Bowens believes there are “issues” around plastics recycling too, because different local authorities have different collection divisions for plastics, a restriction he finds highly counter-productive.

The campaign group recently held a stunt where it handed over different types of plastics between the Leeds and Wakefield borders. “In Wakefield, you can recycle number 5 plastics, and in Leeds you can recycle number 4 but not number 5. So we had an exchange to really identify the inconsistencies between local authorities.

“People get confused and frustrated. But if you simplify the packaging and improve the labelling and communication - the job of manufacturers and local authorities - then you increase the level of acceptability, and of recycling.”

Councillor Mark Dobson, Leeds city council’s cabinet spokesman for recycling and waste management, said it was unrealistic to compare cities crudely, because “each will be doing something that is suitable for their circumstances”.

But he said Leeds is nevertheless “working on being able to put more materials into green recycling bins, including tetrapaks”.

“Our performance compares well with the other core cities,” he stressed. “People can recycle more at home with the new bin service. But [recycling Tetrapaks] all depends on markets being available for the end product and availability of processors. There are very few re-processors of Tetrapaks currently, and we need confidence in the stability of this market if we’re to tell our residents that we can recycle them on their behalf.

“But our aim is to offer Tetrapak recycling, and we remain in regular contact with the relevant companies to monitor the situation.”

“We do however offer residents the opportunity to recycle Tetrapaks at Sainsbury’s at White Rose shopping centre, the car park at Owlcotes shopping centre, Meanwood Road recycling centre, Milners Road recycling centre in Yeadon and Thorp Arch recycling centre in Wetherby.”

“We want to take people with us on the recycling journey,” Coun Dobson added.

“In a city as complex as Leeds, there’s still more to do which is why we’re aiming to get over 60 per cent and actually we don’t have an upper limit on our targets. There are no short term fixes.”

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