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Rule changes mean city council can't achieve its own recycling targets
A LONG-held ambition to recycle half the city’s rubbish is “no longer possible” because of Government rules, according to city council officers.
The authority already has the worst recycling rate in Oxfordshire and earlier this year a £1m funding bid to extend its food waste collection scheme to the city’s blocks of flats was rejected.
Now the city council’s current 45.4 per cent recycling rate has been dealt a further blow by new guidance on what street sweepings can be used for.
An officer’s report to the authority’s scrutiny committee said: “Up until now we have had a strong focus to achieve the psychologically important 50 per cent re-cycling rate.
“Realistically with these changes to the definitions of recyclate, achieving a 50 per cent recycling rate is no longer possible in the near future, and it’s difficult to see how we could achieve it economically even in the longer term.
“Based on the evidence so far this year, future predictions put this to be in the region of 44 per cent.”
When waste is put into the ground at landfill sites, it is covered by a ‘top fluff layer’, a metre of material underneath a clay topping.
Until earlier this year the council’s street sweepings were used for this layer and contributed towards the authority’s recycling rate.
But Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has said these materials can no longer be used in top fluff layers.
Three years ago the Environment Agency ruled that street sweepings are not acceptable for composting because of contamination fears, so cannot be disposed of that way either.
The city council anticipates that when combined, these rules will reduce its recycling rate by six per cent, offsetting any predicted increases.
Chairman of Oxfordshire Waste Partnership, David Dodds criticised HMRC and the Environment Agency for their positions.
He said: “It makes a difference to everyone’s recycling rates. I am a South Oxfordshire district councillor and it knocks at least two per cent off our figures.
“It is ridiculous. I hope that the Government and the EA come to a sensible solution.”
In order to reduce the cost of disposing of the sweepings, the city council is looking at adapting its Marsh Road Depot to remove water from material collected, and therefore reduce the weight.
It is also taking part in a pilot scheme to send the sweepings to Warwickshire to be washed and recycled.
City councillor John Tanner, executive board member for Cleaner, Greener Oxford, still hopes to hit the 50 per cent target.
He said: “This makes it more difficult but I think the people of Oxford are keen to recycle and we will hit the 50 per cent mark sooner or later.”