Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hope at last for recycling in the Deepings...?

I have real hope for the first time that a solution can be found to improve recycling in the Deepings.

The issue came to a head last December when Lincolnshire County Council withdrew its popular “bring to vehicle” service on alternate Saturdays at Rainbow car park at a cost of £28,750 a year.

I always had serious concerns on safety as well as costs of the “bring to vehicle” service. It was well-used, and collected 280 tons a year in the Deepings alone. At least two thirds could have been recycled. Sadly, the whole darned lot was landfilled.

Since last December, there has been no alternative service and some people have resorted to flytipping bulky items.

Deepings Recycling Centre, a private site run by Ian Prentice on the former municipal tip in Deeping St James, has long been willing to host a regular waste skip, free to residents, providing the council covers the cost.

Ian, pictured here with me at his Recycling Centre, is a passionate recycler: I believe he would ensure that only non-recyclable material went in the rubbish skip and much more would be properly recycled.

By working together to build on the service already provided by Deepings Recycling, I am confident we can at last develop a hybrid service for our community that delivers exactly what we need at a fraction of the normal cost.

I’m hoping that as well as the regular waste skip, we can look at other ways Lincolnshire County Council can improve local recycling. For example, a proper green waste scheme, wood recycling, exploring new possibilities to recycle polystyrene which is currently landfilled. Can we improve facilities and reduce the costs of disposal of small amounts of asbestos safely to prevent it being fly-tipped?

Some 18 months ago, I invited then new portfolio holder for Waste, Councillor Lewis Strange, to the Deepings to look at our problem for himself. He came last December and seemed genuinely impressed at what he saw at Deepings Recycling.

Unfortunately, little seems to have happened since, partly no doubt due to the many other urgent priorities to get waste sorted in Lincolnshire to avoid the Government’s planned hefty fines for councils which fail to meet tough recycling targets.

(A couple of years ago, Lincolnshire was given a wake-up call when it was branded a “no-star, no-hope” authority on waste. I'm pleased to say here have been significant improvements since then).

I have been regularly prodding Councillor Strange for progress in the Deepings since last December and in May I formally tabled 15 written questions on the issue at a full council meeting.

I was delighted that he has now kept his promise to return to Deeping St James with a senior officer, Mr Richard Belfield.

The pair spent two hours discussing various possible options with Ian Prentice and myself. It was a very positive meeting, with Councillor Strange and Mr Belfield sharing our strong interest in working together to find a imaginative solution.

My photo shows Ian Prentice, his partner Jane, with Richard Belfield and Councillor Lewis Strange.

Mr Belfield said he started with a clean sheet with a goal of developing an innovative partnership. He said:
“We owe the residents of Deeping St James a 'duty of effort' to be creative in order to improve their quality of life in the area.”
A couple of months ago, the county council adopted a policy of making sure 90 per cent of Lincolnshire households are with seven miles of a waste and recycling centre.

Currently, Lincolnshire County Council has a dozen such sites. They cost at least half-a-million pounds of council taxpayers money to set up – the most recent at Louth will cost £606,000.

On top of the massive capital costs, running each centre costs thousands of pounds EACH WEEK.

For example, the Bourne household waste recycling centre at Pinfold Road industrial site – run by a private company – is expected to cost the Council £238,000 to run this year alone. That’s £4,577 EVERY WEEK.

So there is a real financial incentive if we can possibly do a deal by building on what we already have in the Deepings.

I want to make sure the Council explores every possibility to provide a decent local recycling service for the Deepings without wasting skips full of public cash.

I also raised the issue of why Deepings Recycling Centre can't be properly signposted. Mr Belfield agreed to investigate what could be done.

Currently, if you live in Deeping and contact Lincolnshire County Council for the address of your nearest recycling centre, they send you to Bourne which is signposted for miles around.

The council say they can’t advertise a private business like Deepings recycling. Yet the Bourne site is also run by a private company.

Driving an 18-mile round trip to recycle a couple of bags of lawn clippings is not my idea of saving the environment when we have a home-grown service on our doorstep we could be working with.

So as I said in January, watch this space, but hopefully not for too much longer!

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