High costs and contamination issues have led to a reduction in the availability of high street recycling bins. Councils are also reluctant to buy additional bins because there isn’t enough data to show the return will be worth the investment.
The research by Recoup, a charity that promotes recycling of plastics, found that only 42% of local authorities provide bins in public spaces with high footfall.
Most of the waste in litter bins is sent for incineration (59%) or landfill (28%), with the remainder sent to “dirty” materials recovery facilities for sorting, Recoup said.
The report is timely – the government is currently sifting through evidence on the potential of introducing deposit return schemes for beverage containers. Campaigners believe this will improve recycling rates and reduce litter, but groups representing industry remain far from convinced.
The environment secretary Michael Gove has made no secret of his desire to reduce plastic pollution of the marine environment. And next year ministers will cast their net wider than bottles and coffee cups, to look at whether taxes on single-use plastics could help.
How to improve recycling on-the-go will be a priority, but Recoup’s analysis suggests it won’t be easy.
“Operational difficulties can outweigh any potential benefits to on-the-go collections, certainly for overall recycling rates,” the report reads. “However, it was reported that placement of bins in areas of high footfall or areas with a particular littering issue can be successful with the right investment.”
For many of the 100 local authorities surveyed, the cost versus benefit “does not add up”. Many local authorities reported that their budget is better spent on increasing quantities and reducing contamination in kerbside collections.
Better data on the costs and potential benefits would help, Recoup said. As would more funding for procurement and installation of bins, scheme maintenance and collection of materials. More money also needs to be made available for consumer communication and education.