The great recycling debate (pt. 7654)

Bristol Dave from the effervescing Bristol Dave Rants is asking questions in the comments about recycling:

Can somebody (not necessarily Gary or Jon) please explain to me what on earth the food recycling bins are actually for? Is it just to address the problem of rotting food when the conventional waste bin is only emptied twice-monthly?

Because there surely can’t be a measurable benefit to the environment of “recycling” potato peelings and chicken bones – which surely just get sent to landfill anyway since they decompose.

And he colourfully expands on this on his blog:

Go on Gary. I fucking dare you to knock on my door and patronise me about how I’m killing the planet by not recycling potato peel.

My question, however, is this. How can I find out exactly what happens to all our recycling? And I mean exactly what happens. Not vague fluffy waffle from the council’s enthusiastic ecocrats but company names, addresses, telephone numbers etc.

Has the council got a leaflet or something? There’s nothing directly about this on their relentlessly upbeat ‘n’ chirpy website – “Why not have a look at our Recycle for Bristol film now!” Er, because it’s a load of patronising shite that’s been narrated by Baldrick doing an impression of Alan Whicker’s gormless younger brother?

Neither, oddly, is the fate of our recycling covered in the ‘Frequently asked questions‘ section of the recycling website. Does nobody ever ask?

So does anyone know where all the recycling goes?

This entry was posted in Blogging, Bristol, Environment, Global warming, Local government, Politics, Recycling and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to The great recycling debate (pt. 7654)

  1. Sceptic says:

    The food waste goes 150 miles to Dorset for composting. How green is that? We’re bloody green (and cabbage-looking) for funding it… Any sensible council (if that isn’t an oxymoron) would have sorted out local composting facilities first.

    You mention the lack of information on the council’s website. Where the latter does try to explain, the council puts up a valiant (but losing) battle with the English language, as in the following example:

    Good quality clothes are sent to charities who deliver them to delivering countries.

    What are delivering countries? Are they peopled by jargon-speaking wonks? I think we should be told.

  2. Gary Hopkins says:

    Just looked again at BCC website. It does give a fair amount of info and does cover what are most of the practical questions but to satisfy those that want to know the destination of all the material that is recycled I will arrange for this to be posted. After all if the Daily Mail succeeds in its campaign to persuade everyone that recycling is a waste of time we will all have a big headache.
    The response from sceptic is an old chestnut that has been answered many times before.
    I made the decision to introduce the service.We faced a major financial crisis as years of inaction from Labour and then Cllr Eddy had meant that with a 12% recycling rate we faced massive landfill costs and penalties.
    It takes longer to go through procurement /planning permission etc. to get a new composting plant built than it did to introduce the food collection service.
    It would clearly have been advantageous to have a magic wand handy to produce a local plant straight awaay but unfortunately…
    Financial and environmental calculations were done to compare continuing to landfill the food or separating it and transporting for composting.
    Composting came out massively cheaper and greener.
    The fact that we had established a dependable feedstock meant that there was more competition for our business and the cost of future contract for treatment is lower.
    The new plant will be up and running within a year at Severnside (not far from Avonmouth).
    Had we waited for this plant to be built before starting food waste collections Bristol taxpayers would have paid out millions extra in landfill taxes and penalties.

  3. Sceptic says:

    Gary, I note your response re landfill tax, which I believe is currently levied at £32/tonne. However, the fact that Bristol has saved money on landfill tax charges by introducing composting collections with no local facility available has to be offset against the cost of transport down to the composting site. Do you have any information on that?

    While I’m about it, I’d better not mention the CO2 emissions from a fleet of trucks ferrying proto-compost from Bristol to Dorset. What is the council’s contribution to climate change by shipping slops far away? Any information on that Gary?

  4. Compost corner says:



  5. thebristolblogger says:

    Right. Progreess so far:

    Anyone know the name of this company in Dorset?

    I’m also receiving info’ via Twitter that Tetrapak goes back to Sweden. Any ideas who’s doing this?

  6. Gary Hopkins says:

    Tetrapak is bad news. It is extemely difficuilt to recycle and we would not be doing it now if the Tetrapak industry had not put temporary money in to deflect criticism from their product.
    Sceptic I suggest you reread my contribution as it said that comparators were done and how they came out.
    By the way we are already paying £40 a ton landfill tax with it going up by £8 a year. In addition we have a trading market in council landfill allowances with potential costs of £150 a ton on top.
    Home composting is the best answer and there has been a big push on this which was one reason for Bristol having the best waste reduction record a couple of years ago.
    The stats are on the website.

  7. Compost corner says:


    There you go sep-tic, get your compost bin join now!

    The more the merrier could save us a few bob along the road to recovery from near 40 years of Labour misrule.

  8. Off topic folks, but, there I was sitting down to watch a DVD of the classic fight between Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz and there was a knock on the door. I pressed pause and went to answer it. The street was swarming with the strange mixture of gimps, social worker types, and batty old Quakers that comprise the East Bristol Labour party. Now, with the exception of the last local election when Chaudhury came round, this is the first time that EBLP have bothered with my street – and when Chaudhury did come round he was on his own! Not today though, they were swarming about like lice on the head of a child who has been sent to a very unsavoury nursery by an incompetent socialist administration.

    Why are they so excited? What has got them so animated? Could it be that they are scared that they are going to loose their evil grip on Bristol City Council for many years to come?

    Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly welcoming. The only place I’d like to see any of those flakes is in the cage. On the bottom. In pain.

  9. Bristol Dave says:

    There are a few points I’d like to make (based on comments from previous post also):

    1) Landfilled compost generating methane – great. Much more of this please. We can cheaply harness the methane and use it to generate power without the huge maintenance costs that wind farms have or environmental damage that barrages bring.

    2) Landfill charges – yet another reason to tell the EU to fucking do one, frankly.

    3) Recycling services in this city will have to improve dramatically before I stop exercising my right as a council tax payer to moan about how bloody useless they are.

    Food bins – waste of time, judging from the amount of waste I throw away. They still stink, and foxes seem to have worked out how to get into many I’ve seen.

    Plastic recycling – this is the thing that really gets my back up. We already recycled tins/cans and bottles before traditional waste collection dropped to fortnightly – we don’t have a huge amount of cardboard in our bin. Most of my rubbish has and always will be plastic, given the way food is packaged, but yet Bristol don’t operate a plastic recycling scheme anywhere near as effectively as other councils. If Bristol CC collected waste plastics from my door I’m not entirely sure what I’d have left for the main bin.

    I outright refuse to turn my pride-and-joy car into a fucking bin lorry, doing basically the job we pay the fucking council to do, and take empty plastic bottles to the supermarket to be recycled – the council can and should do this with the council tax I and everyone else pays them, especially given the sheer fortune they must have saved by halving the frequency of bin collections to twice a month. I also don’t quite see why it’s in my remit as a council tax payer to turn my kitchen into a waste separation centre, again given how other cities (Brighton is a good example) operate. Brighton have two wheelie bins of equal size, black and green. Recyclable stuff (bottles, cans, tins, cardboard, paper) goes in the green bin which is emptied weekly and sorted centrally, everything else goes in the black bin and is collected fortnightly. Seems to work fine for them. Yes, food waste goes in the black bin and has the potential to smell, but since so much other stuff is recycled the black bin never gets full enough to prop the lid open which is what causes all the problems.

    Final point – if we have “measures” to push (i.e. force) recycling levels up which involve basically making traditional waste collection more inconvenient/expensive, two things are guaranteed to happen:

    * Massive increase in flytipping, which is basically impossible to police
    * Large increase in people burning their rubbish to fit it in their bin. You can buy an incinerator dustbin for about £20 from B&Q and I know it’s what I’ll do if things become too much of a pain in the arse.

    Hey, at least I’m honest.

  10. Charlie Bolton says:

    ‘Landfilled compost generating methane – great. Much more of this please. We can cheaply harness the methane and use it to generate power without the huge maintenance costs that wind farms have or environmental damage that barrages bring.’

    Except that harnessing methane from landfill is inefficient – 50% at best is captured.

    Bristol – and elsewhere – don’t prioritise plastic because the taxes are based on weight, not volume.

  11. Bristol Dave says:

    Except that harnessing methane from landfill is inefficient
    Like every other renewable source then. Have you seen the cost of purchase and maintenance of windfarms, vs. the amount of electricity you get back?

    Bristol – and elsewhere – don’t prioritise plastic because the taxes are based on weight, not volume.

    Yet another reason to tell the EU to do one then.

  12. Glenn Vowles says:

    The BBC website states that home composting can save 88kg (my body weight) of carbon dioxide per year, and has other useful info:

    As part of my job I work with students doing home eco-footprint measurements annually. Gary may be interested to know that when his brown bin scheme was introduced, even though the composting is not done locally, it cut our household eco-footprint by approx 10% according to the Open University’s eco-footprint computer model – and that’s for a household that is already relatively green and does a small amount of home composting via a wormery.

    No other change made by Bristol City Council before or since has had this positive effect. The scheme is undoubtedly a good one and will be even better when composting happens locally.

  13. Glenn Vowles says:

    That 88 kg carbon dioxide saving must be either per person or per household, not sure which, provided to composting is properly done (well aerated).

  14. Bristol Dave says:

    So now these ill-thought-out food waste bins are being justified by “eco footprints”? I can reduce my “eco footprint” by recycling potato peel?

    Well, bollocks to it.

    I for one am sick and fucking tired of people striving every day to attempt to make me feel guilty just for daring to fucking exist.

    I’ve had enough of it. I am sick of all this alarmism being crammed down my throat. I’m fucking sick of it. It matters not one jot if I recycle my potato peelings, it will not change anything. It will not really change anything if we all recycle our potato peelings, or not. To try and persuade me otherwise is a fucking insult to my intelligence.

    Tomorrow I’m going to take my 3.0 V6 car (with it’s CO2 output at a healthy 238g/km) for a drive, just because I can. These over-alarmist hand-wringing ecomentalists need a carbon footprint to the fucking face.

  15. bikeman says:

    selfish twat

  16. thebristolblogger says:


    Do you understand what they’re doing here:

    They talk about “the controlled management of emissions”. What are these emissions? And what are they doing with them?

  17. Gary Hopkins says:

    Happy to answer the queery if Glenn does not get there first but I just wanted to encourage readers to read the latest posting on Charlie Bolton’s Southville blog .

  18. Bristol Dave says:

    Hmmmmm – note to self: Posting when pissed makes you come across as a bit of a twat. Try to do it sober in future.

    (that said I do stand by pretty much all of what I said!)

  19. FlusteredMatt says:

    Just a note on the Swedish tetra-pak. (its 100% recyclable, if u got the right stuff to do it, btw Sweden bans any products that it cant recycle easy, no Tango in Sweden)

    I lived out there for 12years (returned 2years ago).

    The Swedes have one bin for general waste and everything else you re-cycle yourself.

    HOWEVER, every PLASTIC can/bottle or any other material you pay an extra 15pence for at the checkout. If after you have finished drinking you want your 15p back. You go to ANY shop that sells that cans/bottles/etc and they have to by law give you that 15p back.

    Its great way for kids to earn a little extra and gets them into the whole recycling thing early (which imho will do more good than anything else, a generation that treat recycling as naturally as buying stuff in the first place)

    Sweden does a hell of a lot of things wrong, it makes me cringe when politicians use it as an example as it has more problems than UK, BUT they have had this re-cycle thing sorted for many many years.

    But the ONE thing that made it all work was a few politicians with the BALLs to piss off a lot lazy voters and stand up for whats best instead of what will extend their jobs. So I guess we wont have any changes anytime soon 🙁

  20. BristolPatriot says:

    Bristol Dave .

    Your brilliant. Dont change.

  21. TonyD says:

    Tetrapak have more than 80% market share of UK food and drink cartons. As a result, under Producer Responsibility Regulations they were under pressure to deliver a greater level of recycling.

    What Tetrapak proposed, back in December 2007, was a 2-year fully paid carton recycling scheme. About 75-80% of local authorities signed up for the scheme including Bristol.

    Because there is no suitably equipped facility in the UK, the collections are shipped to a bulk collection point (there is one in East London although somebody else said that Bristol uses a depot in Nottingham?). From there the cartons are shipped to a paper mill in Sweden where the cartons are pulped to separate paper from the alumininum and plastic elements. The pulped paper is then processed to make paper fibres.

    Tetrapak did say back in December 2007, that were looking at providing a UK recycling facility within 12-18 months but as far as I am aware this has not materialised so far.

  22. Tony Lewis says:

    Germany is another country well ahead of us in the recycling agenda.

    15 Years ago when I was there everything was sorted including the food wastage. Even bread was recycled and resold as Toasting bread.

    There is a huge range of efforts that could be made on wastage.

    Flustered Matt:
    ” PLASTIC can/bottle or any other material you pay an extra 15pence for at the checkout. If after you have finished drinking you want your 15p back. You go to ANY shop that sells that cans/bottles/etc and they have to by law give you that 15p back.”

    Not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination. I well remember as a lad doing the very same thing here in Britain with Lemonade bottles getting back the deposit on empty bottles often raised quite a few pounds.

  23. thebristolblogger says:

    What Tetrapak proposed, back in December 2007, was a 2-year fully paid carton recycling scheme

    What does fully paid mean here? Not doorstep collections? What is the Tetrapak recycling process in Bristol? What happens when it ends this year?

  24. I am amazed at the lack of recycling facilities in local tower blocks. There are a few recycling bins outside which are seldom used. Most rubbish goes down shutes which were designed for soft organic waste, so make a hellish racket when jars & tins are dumped, especially at antisocial hours. Around the shutes are louvres which allow gale force winds to blow some fire doors open, the others get jammed shut so are a safety hazard. And strong winds blowing though flats from the kitchen cupboards, so heating is useless.
    How can the council demand residents go green when they provide such abysmal service in their own properties?

  25. TonyD says:

    Standard agreement with local authorities;

    Document from Havant council regarding their decision not to use the scheme;

  26. Gary Hopkins says:

    If Tetrapak seriously expected local authorities to continue to recycle their product after the 2 year period then they should have been rushing through a UK recycling plant that could provide a sustainable solution.
    As it is the money that would be required to maintain the present system could produce far better results elsewhere in the recycling service.
    The Havant paper sets out many of the arguments clearly but I am personally am quite happy that I embaressed the present administration in to accepting the short term freebie,which saved BCC in the order of £100,000 and will be quite prepared to remove the service if the terms are not improved for us in the longer term.
    I did suggest rather more robust warnings be made by BCC than Tetrapak would be happy with.

  27. BristleKRS says:

    My ex-flatmate was into recycling. Tetrapaks had to be collected together, washed out, plastic tops removed, cartons flattened, boxed up and then posted (POSTED!) to some recycling centre in Scotland.

    Personally I can’t be arsed with that.

    My estate used to have a recycling centre with bins for paper, cardboard, glass (x3), cans/metal, and plastics (x2). Now we just have paper, glass and cans.

  28. TonyD says:

    Tetrapak had originally invested £300,000 in the recycling scheme in 2006 and had been planning to send the cartons to be recycled at the Smith Anderson Mill in Fife, Scotland. But this mill went into receivership in June 2006, since then they have had trials with other UK mills but no final deal. Even if the Smith Anderson Mill had remained open, the mill would have only been able to recycle the cartonboard element with the rest (about a quarter of the weight) going to landfill.

    A typical carton is made up of 74% cartonboard laminate, 4% aluminium and 22% polyethylene, which cannot easily be separated by the consumer thus the problems of recycling them.

    The 2007 scheme was jointly with Elopak and SIG Combiblock (2 other UK carton manufacturers) under the name of the Alliance for Beverage Carton and the Environment (ACE). Tetrapak invested £1.2 million with the stated target of recycling 10% of the 55,000 tonnes of cartons that they produce for the UK market by 2008.

    There are 2 Scandinavian mills that have been used for recycling the cartons; Orebro, Sweden and Hurum, Norway. Tetrapak insist that because of the amount of renewable energy used to power those plants the overall carbon footprint is lower than sending the cartons for recycling at existing mills in the UK.

    As far as local authorities are concerned, their targets tend to be set by weight and cartons don’t weigh very much. A glass bottle with the same carrying capacity as a carton weighs 25 times as much, and as local authorities are penalised based on the weight of waste diverted to landfill, it makes sense for them to focus effort on recycling glass bottles rather than cartons.

    This is a shame, because on the whole, cartons seem to be more environmentally friendly than either glass bottles or PET bottles. A single lorry can transport enough boxes of flattened preformed packaging for 1 million standard 1 litre cartons – it would require 50 trucks (and the resulting emissions) to deliver the same number of 1 litre bottles. Even when filled, the shape of cartons allows a pallet to be loaded with 38% more cartons than the equivalent PET or glass bottles.

  29. Ella says:

    Lizard Watcher, watch what you say about Quakers! They’re violent and unreasonable and can strike at any time… :O

  30. “Lizard Watcher, watch what you say about Quakers! They’re violent and unreasonable and can strike at any time”

    True, but this is Bristol. We know how to deal with their sort here. Any messing about and it’ll be two floggings, branding the letter “B” on their foreheads, piercing their tongues with a hot iron, followed by two years hard labour; this last element to consist of trying to make sense out of BCC policy documents.

  31. Glenn Vowles says:

    ‘They talk about “the controlled management of emissions”. What are these emissions? And what are they doing with them?’ (BB)

    Its all part of Environment Agency requirements to control smells, control liquid and gaseous emissions, minimise emissions of bacteria/fungi/viruses… carried on/in particulates…as well as maximise the efficiency to the recycling process itself eg through achieving the right temperature conditions…Nasties are easily neutralised if captured.

    They are after all composting what most people wont be home composting, cooked food, high protein meat/cheese/fish/egg, bones….in addition to what people could home compost, thus the need for safe, highly controlled conditions and I would think higher temperatures.

  32. Ella says:

    That’ll teach ’em!

  33. waterguy says:

    Interesting read and glad to have spotted the Tony D (well informed) comment towards the bottom. You can also have a read of the Tetra Pak website for more details: –

    Everyone is so hung up on recycling that few notice the real impact is the whole life cycle carbon footprint of a product. In this respect, cartons are simply better than the alternatives, assuming the product being packaged needs to be kept wholesome in the first place.
    We looked at this long, hard and soberly before we put our own money into our start up in 2006, packing ‘aquapax’ mineral water in cartons. I know I had personal issues with seeing plastic waste everywhere, but also wanted to show up the folly of packing poor quality water into plastic and selling it at rip off prices.
    We should encourage our politicians (paid to do the right thing) to stimulate debate about using carbon footprint as a true measure of a worth for packaging. If there’s really a green agenda in the government then why are they not putting tax incentives where their mouths are, starting with common sense every day products?

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