Following our petition with 1400 names calling for greater recycling of the city’s waste, Birmingham Friends of the Earth was keen to see the City Council’s latest attempt at a Waste Strategy, which came out this summer. Disappointingly, it did not say what the council will actually do when their waste contract with Veolia expires in 2018, but it offered eight statements or principles that people were invited to endorse or comment upon. Consultation finished 31 July and we did our best to see that residents knew in time to make their response.

The strategy proposes moving from 30% waste recycled, as at present, to 70%, which we agreed with, noting that some authorities are already virtually at 70% recycling. However, the strategy also involves generating electricity by burning waste, in competition with real power stations burning a real fuel. We pointed out that recycling 70% of waste would mean diverting the organics to composting, the paper, card and plastic to recycling, so the residue will be stuff that doesn’t burn. The incinerator at Tyseley was designed to burn all of the council’s waste and it couldn’t continue in a recycling economy. I made this point in a webcast with Cabinet member Lisa Trickett, who said she would not sign any contract that works against recycling – the first time any senior councillor has said this.

Food waste collection that we proposed is in the new strategy, as a possibility at least. There is a new Recycling Programme Manager who is to write a recycling and re-use plan – the first for Birmingham. It does seem that there is finally a real debate going on in the council about what a realistic future for waste would look like. We will watch closely and report on any progress.