Birmingham Friends of the Earth press release

Embargo: For immediate release, Tuesday 14 June 2011

Contact Joe Peacock 0121 6326909

Will Birmingham’s Waste Review Outdo Government’s Lack of Ambition?

The Government’s waste review displays an embarrassing lack of new ideas and ambition, and will not help deliver the ‘zero waste economy’ the Government claims it is aiming for, Friends of the Earth said today.

The green campaigning charity welcomed the abandoning of Government attempts to bully councils into running weekly bin rounds and backed cash incentives for weekly food waste collection, but attacked the Government for failing to show any real commitment to slash residual ‘black bag’ waste – rubbish that is sent for incineration or landfill. Friends of the Earth is calling for black bag waste to be halved by 2020.

Birmingham City Council still has weekly collections and lags behind many other authorities in terms of both recycling rates and collection of food waste and Birmingham Friends of the Earth are pushing them to halve the amount of rubbish in black bags by introducing new collections.

Following a debate in the council chambers over these issues today Birmingham Friends of the Earth spokesman Joe Peacock said “This is not the time for Birmingham to be complacent about its achievements. A recycling rate of 31% is nowhere near good enough and the current system is not fit for purpose.

“Birmingham needs to learn from past mistakes and ensure we never again commit the city to expensive and resource inefficient incineration of waste, but use all the resources in the waste stream as efficiently as possible.

“We strongly urge the council to get food out of black bags as quickly as possible and into composting or anaerobic digestion systems, as well as making it as easy as possible for people to recycle materials of value.”


1. A Friends of the Earth briefing ahead of the Waste Review is available at:

2. Birmingham Friends of the earth have been campaigning locally for halving of black bag rubbish through food waste collections and better recycling;

3. Some of the good ideas that are included in the Review are dated hand-me-downs that we should be building on rather than reverting back to. These include;

o the voluntary commitment for councils on waste services – a WRAP / LGA agreement has existed since 2009, to which 111 councils are already signed up

o A consultation on banning the landfilling of wood, with a review of the banning of landfilling other recyclable materials – the previous government’s consultation on landfill bans recommended banning a range of materials. It was published in summer 2010, after years of preparatory research and consultation.The newly elected Coalition said at that publication of the consultation results that it was not “minded” to implement landfill bans, even as the Welsh Assembly Government declared its desire to press ahead with them.

o The household waste recycling target remains the 50% EU minimum that the last Government signed up to but was considering raising. Wales, Scotland and most recently Northern Ireland have pledged to go further.

o They pledge to raise packaging recovery targets, which had been rising consistently every year until the new Coalition Government stalled them for the first time in years last year.

4. Friends of the Earth called for the review to set a goal to halve residual ‘black bag’ waste by 2020, with a similar ambition for business waste. This should be achieved through a combination of increased recycling, waste prevention and re-use – rather than simply focussing on recycling. The call is backed by a number of businesses, councils, organisations and networks, including Unilever, Sainsbury’s, B&Q, Coca Cola Enterprises, the Federation of Small Businesses, WWF-UK and the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority.

5. Friends of the Earth also called for the Waste Review to include:

o An end to Government attempts to force councils into providing weekly bin collections. Fortnightly bin rounds are hygienic, cheaper to run and lead to more materials being recycled – provided they are accompanied by decent recycling schemes and weekly food waste collections.

o Waste incineration to be phased out, and the end to the burning and landfilling of recyclable materials;

o Greater effort – at local, UK and EU level – to prevent waste through improved product design and producer responsibility;

o Support for business waste collection schemes, including a requirement on waste companies to offer cost effective recycling services;

o High quality recycling collection and processing, with a preference for kerbside separation of waste.

6. Councils have been coming under relentless pressure from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to end fortnightly waste collection schemes in favour of weekly ones. However, estimates suggest this could cost councils £530m over four years, and cut England’s recycling rate by five per cent: