Azara Blog: Cambridge plastic being "recycled" allegedly ends up in China

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Date published: 2005/10/04

The Cambridge Evening News says:

Waste collection in Cambridge is set to be revolutionised on October 17. The weekly collection of household waste will become a thing of the past as a controversial new scheme takes over. Now residents will have their regular waste and their compostable waste collected in alternate weeks.
But Labour city councillors have raised concerns about the scheme. Coun Lewis Herbert, a former senior recycling officer at Cambridgeshire County Council, says the amount of oil needed to drive around the city and collect the [ plastic ] bottles will negate the benefits of recycling them.

He said: "It's a missed opportunity because there are other ways the money could be better spent to encourage people to recycle more.

"The method of sending vehicles out to only collect plastic bottles is both wasteful and crazy - no other council does it that way. They should be collecting other things at the same time.

"This is not the best way of spending what amounts to about half a million pounds of tax payers' money a year."

But the Lib Dems have responded, citing figures which state that for every ton of diesel used by the lorries to collect the bottles they will be able to recycle nearly 18 tons of plastic. Plastic contains about 60 per cent oil and the Lib Dems say this is justification for the scheme.

However, Labour critics dispute the figures and have pointed out that all the plastic is then shipped to China before it is recycled.

Needless to say the chattering class LibDems that run the city did not bother to give any facts to people when they put out a consultation on the matter many months ago. So we now find that for every ton of diesel (produced by how many tons of oil?) they can collect 18 tons of plastic, which contains around 11 tons of oil. Presumably we are supposed to be impressed since 11 > 1, only it is an apples (diesel) and oranges (oil) comparison, and even worse, not only will they probably not be able to recover the full 11 tons, how many tons of oil does it take to recover the amount they do manage? Even worse, if this stuff really gets shipped to China not only does that add another amount of oil consumption (well, possibly not that much extra if the boat was going back empty in any case), it also means that this stuff is probably never recycled but just dumped in some landfill in China (or at sea). So it sounds like this plastic "recycling" is just a con trick to salve the conscious of the chattering classes of Cambridge (people who produce a lot of waste and like to pretend they are saving the world because they "recycle" some of it). It's time we have some people with common sense running Cambridge, and that precludes (most of) the LibDems.

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