Council checks if waste is being shipped to developing countries

Richmondshire District Council launched a review of its recycling service, as members said they wanted to ensure that none of its waste was being shipped to developing countries.

The authority, which has declared a climate emergency and pledged to put environmental concerns at the heart of its decision-making, is to consider ways in which its recycling service can be improved.

A full meeting of the authority heard councillors call for transparency over where residents’ recycling is sent, saying it was important any waste being sent abroad was identified and the authority stopped.

The authority’s chairman Councillor Stuart Parsons told members: “It’s all very well for us to collect this stuff. How much of it goes to the incinerator in Knaresborough, where does all our plastic go, does it go to a local recycler or does it end up in Indonesia or Thailand? We want a proper trace of all our waste.”

The authority is also preparing to install recycling facilities at the heart of Richmondshire’s main tourist areas, despite concerns it could be a waste of money, to demonstrate its determination to generate less waste for landfill.

Councillor Clive World told members it was important the initiative was enacted soon.

The recycling review comes as a political consensus appears to be forming in many local authorities of their responsibility in helping the world gain control of a plastic pollution crisis that has seen 100 million tons of plastic waste leak into the world’s oceans, according to United Nations figures.

Many of Richmondshire’s neighbouring authorities, including Durham, Darlington, Craven and Harrogate as well as North Yorkshire County Council have declared a climate emergency in recent months.

After the meeting, Cllr Parsons said sending waste abroad where local authorities had little or no oversight or control of how it was dealt with had been “an issue for quite some time”, so it was crucial for Richmondshire’s council to get a grip on the situation.

He said: “We need to be responsible human beings and make sure it is being properly dealt with, rather than just shifting our problem onto somewhere else where the infrastructure is less capable. It is a growing area of concern as more and more information becomes available.”

Cllr Parsons said residents had a right to know where the waste they spent time and effort recycling ended up and the authority could inspire more recycling if it provided residents with reassurances about how waste was being dealt with.

He said: “I believe that if we find some of our waste is being sent abroad we would be happy to go away and renegotiate contracts. The sooner we know about it, the sooner we can do something about it.”