Collaborating to make Oxfordshire the top recycling county in England

Oxfordshire waste partnership

The Oxfordshire Waste Partnership – now known as Recycle for Oxfordshire – has successfully doubled the Oxfordshire’s recycling rates in seven years, making it England’s top recycling county. By 2014, the county had reached a recycling rate of 60%, up from 33% in 2007. During this time, the partnership of six local councils has overseen the construction of two anaerobic digestion sites, as well as an energy recovery plant, and rolled out a new waste collection programme.

The councils involved are Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council. Each council retains responsibility for waste collection and treatment, while a joint communications programme is in place to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable waste management across the county.

“It’s great that people from six organisations, with different political and financial considerations come together to work towards a common goal of delivering the best possible waste management services,” says partnership co-ordinator Wayne Lewis.

Lewis highlights that when he first began work in local authority waste management in 1997, his council had a recycling rate of 6%. That same council now recycles more than 60%. While there has been significant investment since then in greener waste treatment systems, Lewis identifies the increase in landfill tax, which now stands at £80 per tonne, as a major factor in stimulating innovation in the sector.

With three of the district councils involved in the top ten for recycling in 2012, landfill waste levels in Oxfordshire began to creep back up the following year as recycling rates plateaued. This can be attributed largely to consumer behaviour, according to Lewis, and in particular, the ongoing challenge to encourage and promote recycling.

Encouraging people to ‘recycle one more thing’, through schemes such as the new Pledge 4 Plastics campaign, will help Recycle for Oxfordshire to keep awareness of recycling options high and inspire a responsible approach to waste.

The partnership will also continue to address food waste. Despite having introduced anaerobic digestion (AD) and in-vessel composting plants, food waste still makes up 20-30% of the county’s residual waste. Lewis and his colleagues aim to highlight how simple it is to recycle food waste, emphasising the benefits for the environment. He expects to see more AD plants built in the county in the future. Elsewhere, the partnership has also created a not-for-profit organisation, Bicester Green, to help encourage the reuse of old items. The charity accepts electrical items, bicycles and furniture for repair and resale, selling them through a local charity, Sobell House.

Lastly, Lewis believes the quality of the materials collected for recycling will become more important than sheer volumes recycled: “While local councils are still motivated by their recycling rates, there is a growing realisation that the materials we collect are commodities,” he says. “Better prices will be obtained for cleaner, higher quality materials. We’ll need to work with our collection contractors and MRF operators to ensure good quality.”

For more information on the Oxfordshire Waste Partnership, please click here. To find out how MBA Polymers transforms municipal waste into high quality raw materials, please visit our website.