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Waste and litter matters

This way to the dump This way to the dump Photo: © Jane Tomlinson

Oxfordshire generates 2.2 million tonnes of waste: municipal, commercial, industrial and construction. County and District Councils are only responsible for the first of these.

With 40,000 new houses planned to be constructed in the county between 2011 and 2026, municipal waste is expected to increase. This means that Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) must work hard to meet its objective to reduce the amount of municipal waste going to landfill to 2% of the total by 2030. This will only be achieved by significantly improving household recycling and composting rates, and by treatment of the residual waste.

In practical terms, ‘treatment’ means incineration. We believe this should be seen as a last resort, after other measures have been ruled out. We oppose large industrial-scale plants in the open countryside, due to their impact on the landscape and the resulting heavy traffic. Another disadvantage is that they require high throughput of waste to make them economical, which could cause waste to be diverted from recycling schemes and lead to the import of waste from outside Oxfordshire. We favour small-scale treatment of residual waste at industrial locations close to towns, with the benefit of energy recovery, or smaller processes such as mechanical biological treatment.

Most Districts in the county have seen excellent progress in increasing the amount of waste recycled, with rates in the best-performing Districts equal to the best nationally. According to a report by the Oxfordshire Waste Partnership, the overall rate was 60% in the period up to 2011, and the average amount of waste generated per household was 290kg per year for the best-performing District – again, on a par with the best nationally.

However, there is still a long way to go. We favour setting challenging targets for recycling and composting of 70% for 2020 and 80% by 2025. We think this is achievable, if the following measures are implemented:

  • Maintaining fortnightly collection of recyclable household refuse
  • Addressing the practical difficulty of storing bins in accessible locations for residents of larger towns
  • Giving householders better information about Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) and increasing the range of items that can be brought there
  • Encouraging households to cut down on waste at home by setting up a compost bin, reusing containers and bags, avoiding heavily packaged goods and complaining to retailers and manufacturers about goods that are over-packaged

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