There are several compelling arguments for recycling more of our waste rather than simply burying it in landfill sites. Obvious benefits include the fact that recycling is most cost-effective and is also better for the environment. A majority of people – after years of expensive campaigns on the subject – agree with recycling in principle and most people make an effort to fill the appropriate bins provided by local authorities.
Yet more needs to be done. Targets set both by the European Union and also by the local Department of Environment set a challenging agenda for local authorities if they are to meet the stated target – up to 60% of waste to be recycled by 2020. Councils will be facing hefty fines if they don't fulfil their obligations.
Belfast City Council feels that one way to increase recycling is to cut the size of its black bins, those used for general waste. They believe householders will then be forced to be more meticulous in sorting their waste.
It is a theory which may or may not work. Households with large families will find it difficult to handle all their non-recyclable waste in smaller bins which are only collected fortnightly. Many find it a stretch at the moment, even if they are being good citizens on the recycling front. Belfast has the lowest recycling record of all 26 district councils at around 27%, less than half the percentage achieved by Magherafelt Council. Ratepayers would like to hear a proper explanation of why the city's record is so poor before being made to feel that they are the scapegoats and punished with smaller bins.
Given the patchy performance on recycling throughout Northern Ireland, it is clear some local authorities are failing to follow best practice for one reason or another. Is the recycling infrastructure all that it should be and should councils not do more sorting of the rubbish themselves to ensure that it is disposed of efficiently? As well, surely more pressure should be put on stores and producers to cut down on the amount of packaging which is the source of most household waste. Stop just blaming householders, even by implication.