Letter about Kingston Recycling

Monday 8th December 2014

Dear Mr Goldsmith,

Kingston Council’s proposed changes to recycling collections

I am writing about the proposed changes to recycling collections in Kingston which I find concerning. As you will know these were announced by the new Conservative administration without public consultation and will now be subject to a vote of the full council next month.

 My concerns with the proposals are fivefold: 

1. The practicality of asking people to take and store an extra bin in addition to their existing bin and recycling boxes.  As you may know, many homes in North Kingston and New Malden are terraces or semi detached homes with small front gardens and often no (or restricted) side returns making the storage of multiple bins and boxes in the back garden extremely challenging.

2. In addition to the problems of having the physical space to store the bins outside the home, these new proposals are likely to create a problem of storage of recyclable items for up to a fortnight inside the home.  Under the proposals people will have to find space to separately store plastics and metals from paper and cardboard for up to a fortnight – again challenging for many people in smaller homes, as well as creating extra demand for recycling boxes. 

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) identified these ‘situational barriers’ as a significant reason for people not to recycle (reporthere)

3. The new system is clearly more complex than the current well established arrangements and is likely to be a significant disincentive for many people to recycle.  Given Kingston is the fourth highest borough in London for recycling – and one of only a few that didn’t see rates fall last year, I find it troubling that Kingston people’s recent success in recycling more may be reversed with these much more complex proposals. 

4. The proposals will end the recycling of batteries which will lead to more chemicals in the ground as people revert to throwing their batteries out in the landfill bin.  The importance of recycling batteries was highlighted in an article in the Ecologist which stated:

‘…the average UK household sends 21 portable batteries a year to landfill - a total of 600 million units - exposing our soil, groundwater and surface water to risk of contamination by heavy metals.

‘Three quarters of the survey's respondents said they threw away old batteries immediately or kept them for a short period of time then disposed of them anyway. Yet, nine out of ten people would be willing to recycle them if a door-to-door collection scheme was available in their area…’ 

Yet Kingston Conservatives are proposing to withdraw this service.

5. The proposals also end textile recycling.  This appears to me to be a false economy – particularly with the current relatively high prices for recycled textiles – Let’s recycle report local councils should be able to sell recycled textiles for between £300 and £600 per tonne.  At these prices it is clear the council would be able to raise much needed revenue with such a service. By way of information, next door, in Conservative-run Elmbridge, the council has a partnership arrangement with the British Heart Foundation to run a successful textile recycling collection.

So I hope you can see, there are some serious concerns about these proposed changes to recycling – ones that are likely to complicate the process, discourage recycling, increase pollution and lose the council revenue opportunities. 

As someone who has made claim to being a committed environmentalist, I’m sure you share these concerns.  So I would be grateful if you would you let me know if you're willing to encourage Kingston's Conservative councillors to rethink their plans while there is still time?

Kind regards,

Robin Meltzer

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate,
Richmond Park & North Kingston