More than half of Peterborough’s rubbish is burned, figures show – one of the highest rates of incineration in England.
While many households are making an effort to separate their waste, recent reports revealed that a lack of facilities leads to millions of plastic bottles, pots and trays placed in recycling bins being incinerated across the country.
To reduce plastic usage, the Government has announced a ban on the supply of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds in England from April 2020.
In 2017/18 47,719 tonnes of rubbish were burned in Peterborough, according to the latest Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs figures.
That was 55 per cent of the local authority’s waste. The vast majority was used as fuel to generate heat and electricity at specialist waste power facilities.
Across England, burning rubbish is becoming more common. Around 42 per cent of the country’s waste is incinerated, compared to 35 per cent two years earlier.
A cross-party report, launched last year in the House of Lords, called on the Government to take oversight of the industry and introduce an incineration tax.
Research revealed that incinerators in England caused more pollution last year than 250,000 lorries travelling 75,000 miles each.
The second most common way of disposing rubbish in Peterborough was recycling. In 2017/18, 43 per cent of waste was recycled or composted. The rate has stayed the same since 2015/16.
And two per cent of waste was dumped in landfills.
Recoup, a charity that promotes plastic recycling, said that the problem was linked to China’s decision last year to ban imports of plastic waste, and restrictions introduced by other countries receiving waste from Britain.
Most plastic trays used for meat, fruit and other food are made from polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which is so brittle that it has to be sent to specialist recycling facilities.
To improve recycling rates, the Government has announced that every home will have weekly food waste collections and packaging will be more clearly labelled to show if it can go in household recycling bins.
Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner, said people doing their best to recycle plastic will be appalled to find out it’s ending up in incinerators.
He said: “All but a tiny fraction of plastic is made of fossil fuels like oil and gas so burning these pots and packaging contributes to the climate emergency as well as trashing public trust in the recycling industry.
“The only way out of the plastic pollution crisis is to radically reduce how much plastic we produce in the first place.
“The sooner the UK government legislates to make this happen the sooner we’ll be able to stop burning the stuff and dumping it on vulnerable communities overseas.”
Local authorities, responding to a Recoup report, admitted that they were incinerating “low-grade” plastic.
Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s environment spokesman, said: “The best way to reduce waste is through changes to packaging and reducing the waste businesses generate each year, including the amount of unrecyclabes.
“Critical to this goal it is vital that manufacturers and retailers also pay toward the cost of recycling. In 2017, producers only paid £73 million towards the cost of managing waste packing.
“This compares with an estimated cost to councils of £700 million for managing the collection and disposal of packaging waste.”