Piling on pressure to recycle and save cash

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The first thing that hits you is the smell – a sweet, sickly odour you wouldn’t expect.

The second is the sheer size of the landfill site at Sidegate Lane, near Wellingborough.

The area is massive, and, at full capacity, it will hold three million tones of household rubbish.

This is where all the rubbish thrown into bin liners and black wheelie bins from Wellingborough, Kettering, East Northamptonshire and other parts of the county end up.

It should be only non-recyclable waste that ends up in landfill, but just looking at the material below your feet shows the message isn’t yet getting through to everyone.

We watch as a refuse truck from East Northants dumps its load. It is rubbish from only about 100 homes but it is a huge amount.

A closer inspection reveals inside the bin bags are tin cans, tea bags, eggshells, CDs and aluminium foil – all materials which can be recycled.

Our visit comes at the start of a two-month campaign which has been launched this week to encourage people to recycle more.

It coincides with an increase in the amount local authorities are charged to send waste to landfill, called the landfill tax.

This month, it increased to £86 per tonne – including the gate fee – and next year it is set to increase by at least £8 per tonne, to £94.

Northamptonshire currently sends 140,000 tonnes of waste to landfill a year, so next year the bill will be a minimum of £13 million.

Yet the cost of recycling waste per tonne is just £41.50 – less than half the cost of sending it to landfill.

Cabinet member for the environment county councillor Ben Smith said: “The message we are trying to get over is it is the public’s money that is being spent and the public has the power if they recycle more to save themselves money.

“This money could then be spent on other services.”

The county council carried out a survey of people’s rubbish, with their consent, by going through the items they threw away.

It found that 34 per cent could have been recycled.

Cllr Smith said: “If we can get a significant proportion of that waste going into the recycling system at the collection stage or at household recycling centres it would save us a lot of money.”

But Cllr Smith said there were no plans to introduce enforcement action or penalties for people who don’t recycle.

“In Northamptonshire we don’t want a bullying attitude in regards to recycling.

“We want to tell people it is in their own interest.

“I despair when I see cases in other parts of the country where someone has been prosecuted for putting too much in their wheelie bin and the lid isn’t quite shut. It is crazy.

“We are really pleased with what the public have been doing and recycling rates are going up and up. Sometimes we are getting up to 73 or 74 per cent, which is fantastic.

“Just a few years ago, we were talking about 34 per cent.

“There are still a few people who, if they’ve missed a collection for example, might throw everything into their black bin and that is what we are trying to stop.”

The landfill site in Sidegate Lane, which interestingly has a resident falcon to scare away scavenging seagulls, will be full to capacity within two to three years.

At that point, it will be covered with clay, soil and then grass, to blend in with the surrounding countryside.

It is already 25 metres deep with rubbish but over time it will settle by 25 to 30 per cent.

When this site is full, another landfill site will have to be created. Andrew Ives, regional manager for Sita, which operates the landfill site, said: “Our strategy is not to look at waste as a waste material but to extract value from it.

“Its component parts might be of use or it could be used to produce energy.

“There are always certain waste streams where we will struggle to extract value from it, but there is always room to squeeze that down.