A local councilor has criticized the ‘counterproductive’ decision to scrap the supply of five million free food bin liners to residents from next year.
Representative for Hillside ward in Lower Earley and leader of the Wokingham Conservatives, Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, suggests residents are “not happy with it”.
“The whole point of recycling is the easier you make it for people the more they’ll do, making it more difficult is counterproductive. It will damage food recycling,” she said.
Wokingham Borough Council says the decision, made in July, was taken to reduce the use of non-recyclable single-use plastics and they hadn’t been budgeted for beyond this year.
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The council says the move could save £120,000 a year, however, Cllr Jorgensen said the provision of liners in 2021/22 will cost the council £80,000.
Wokingham Council leader Clive Jones said they “stand by the decision” and highlighted inflation as the cause of the price increase.
Cllr Jones said £6m had been put aside to help with inflation but “an awful lot” of it had already been used and there is “still six months” of the financial year remaining.
“The previous cost had been £80,000 but we have been told by the supplier that the cost of doing it again would be £120,000. There isn’t enough money for the bin bags,” he added.
Cllr Jorgensen also accused the current leadership of making the choice “in secret with no transparency at all”. It will be debated at the council meeting on Thursday, but Cllr Jones says this is just to ratify it, saying the decision “has been made”.
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Cllr Jorgensen stressed that the opposition will “push” the leadership to reconsider.
The decision means the next annual delivery of bin bags in 2023 will not include food bags, and extra bags formerly available at libraries and other pick-up locations are no longer available.
When it was announced, the executive member for environment, sport and leisure, Cllr Ian Shenton, said: “Production and disposal of non-recyclable single-use plastics result in greenhouse gas emissions and often end up polluting our rivers and seas.
Instead, the council suggested residents can line their kitchen caddy with a compostable liner, newspaper or any soft plastic bag they have that they were going to throw away, such as carrier bags, bread bags, cereal bags or fruit and vegetable bags.
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Cllr Jorgensen said that while the liners are not biodegradable, they “don’t go to landfill anyway”.
“When they go into the recycling process they are split and the plastic bag bit of it gets sent to Grundon combined heat and power plant to provide heat from waste,” she added.
Cllr Jones responded saying it is best “not to burn five million pieces of plastic”, and suggested that, while the volume of recycling could “dip slightly”, it will come back because “people want to recycle”.