Come clean on why city’s residents are stopped from recycling plastics, say Greens

Come clean on why city’s residents are stopped from recycling plastics, say Greens

FOI reveals Veolia ‘not willing’ to adapt £1bn contract to include plastics recycling


Greens have called on the Labour Council to come clean about plastics recycling in the city after a Freedom of Information Request from Materials Recycling World magazine revealed the waste disposal company Veolia are ‘not willing to change their position’ on plastic waste. The call was featured in a comment piece in local government trade journal Materials Recycling World[1] from Convenor of the Green Group of Councillors,  Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty.

The contents of a letter responding to a Government query on recycling rates states that “Whilst other Councils can and do recycle these kinds of materials, the B&HCC is contractually obliged under the terms of the PFI agreement to provide all waste materials, whether residual or recyclable to Veolia. We have raised this anomaly with Veolia on a number of occasions, but they are not willing to change their position on this.”

However Greens have criticised Labour for contradictory messages to the public about plastic waste recycling, given that previous statements on the issue talked of ‘working with Veolia’ to address plastic recycling. The comment is the latest in many calls Greens have made for the Private Finance Initiative deal with Veolia to be re-drawn.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty reacted to the FOI, writing in the Materials Recycling World Magazine on 15th March:

“I read with interest the letter from the Labour Council to Government ministers stating that massive waste company Veolia, which holds the local contract for recycling, has rejected calls to renegotiate their waste service to take more plastics. Given Veolia has a giant 25 year, £1bn ‘Private Finance Initiative’ deal, (PFI), it’s hardly a surprise they are in no rush to adapt to meet the city’s recycling needs.

“Labour now needs to come clean about how toxic these PFI deals are, something they’ve been unwilling to tell the public. Presumably they have been reluctant to do this as the waste deal was struck under Labour leadership of the council and like so many PFI deals, under the last Labour government. The reality is that through the complex arrangements of PFI, private companies have been able to hold councils to ransom.

“The letter suggests we are stuck with current recycling issues because Veolia won’t take products that lack an ‘end market’ for recycling. But other local recycling companies in the city, and indeed other councils, collect a greater range of materials than are covered through the Veolia contract. Sheffield Council has recently renegotiated their waste PFI deal, saving council tax payers thousands in the process. 

Councillor Mac Cafferty concluded his comment: “We cannot wait for the Conservative Government to act when their woeful 25-year long environment plan will hardly make a dent in our waste recycling. The Labour Council is in a position to renegotiate existing contracts so they represent better value for the taxpayer and respond to local needs and environmental concerns. It’s high time they did, not least because at a time of massive public sector cuts the millions that have been wasted could have been spent improving public services.”

–Notes for Editors


Excerpt of written question and answer from Full Council 2nd November 2017 (f) Range of Plastics Collected by BHCC for Recycling$$$Minutes.doc.pdf (p22)

34.23 Councillor Littman asked the following question, “Given that recycling rates in the city are so woeful having been below 30% every year for the last 11 years, a time period covered by administrations of all three colours. Can the Chair of ETS please tell us why, as a waste collection authority, the only type of plastics we collect are plastic bottles?”

34.24 Councillor Mitchell replied,

“I am pretty proud to have raised our recycling levels to the highest rate ever from the 24% under your administration to the 29.1% now and we would certainly like to see more types of plastic being able to be collected by the Council for recycling and City Clean officers are actively looking for future solutions to enable this to happen in partnership with East Sussex County Council and Veolia.

However the extent to which different types of plastic can be collected depends on technical, economic and logistical factors. At present the Council can only recycle plastic bottles that are made of a certain type of soft plastic; drinks, water, milk and detergent bottles for example. There is a very good market for this product that provides income with an optimum recovery root meaning it can be processed and recycled many times over.

Currently the Hollingdean material recycling facility is not designed to take plastic pots, tubs and trays. Veolia are assessing the feasibility of retrofitting this facility but this will also need to assess the space required for the additional equipment and the materials. Another key consideration is the need for there to be a sustainable end market for the volume of this material and present indications are that there is a lack of demand from the industry for these recycled materials due to the fierce competition from virgin plastics thanks to low oil prices and recent developments in china that are restricting the input of recycling however we are keeping all options under review.”

34.25 Councillor Littman asked the following supplementary question,

“Councillor Mitchell what work is ongoing in regards to collaboration with other agencies in the city which collects a greater range of matters than we do for example the Magpie Waste Show Operative or the Green Centre and also with other Local Authorities apart from East Sussex to increase the range of plastics we collect even if we are not able to dispose them ourselves?”

34.26 Councillor Mitchell replied, “We do point residents to other waste collection organisations so that they can dispose of a greater range of materials. I am very hopeful that in future we as a Council will be able to expand our range too.

[2] FOI letter MRW_brighton_response_Redacted: as attached

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