Crawley recycling rates in the spotlight

Crawley Borough Council plans to call on West Sussex County Council to reintroduce recycling credits.
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The credits, which were scrapped by the county council in 2020, were payments made to waste-collection authorities such as Crawley to help them to increase recycling and reduce the amount of general waste going to landfill.

The matter was discussed during a borough council meeting after a motion about recycling levels was tabled by Conservative leader Duncan Crow.

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Out of the seven district and borough councils in West Sussex, Crawley sends the lowest percentage of its household waste for recycling, reuse or composting – 31.39 per cent in 2021/22 compared to Horsham’s 53.09 per cent.

Mr Crow called on the council to ‘publicly state its intent to be serious about improving Crawley’s household waste recycling rate’, including learning from other authorities and waste experts.

He also asked for a cross-party working group to be set up to look at how household waste recycling rates could be improved.

But council leader Michael Jones changed the wording, insisting the council already had a ‘strong commitment’ to improving its rates, adding that options should be looked at by the overview and scrutiny commission rather than a working group.

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He said: “I won’t take any lectures from Conservatives on recycling, either locally or nationally. It is difficult to do anything at a major level about it at the moment, particularly because of the delay by the Tory government in bringing forward the national waste strategy.

“We are reluctant to do anything before it’s entirely clear what we will be mandated to do going forward. That means investing in the infrastructure and fleet and equipment needed – and that can’t proceed until we know.”

While the wait for an up-to-date waste strategy has been going on since 2018, Crawley’s recycling figures were already low – 27.6 per cent in 2015/16. By 2019/20, they stood at 30.27 per cent and 31.92 per cent in 2020/21 – the lowest in the county each year.

But some have argued that the figures are skewed by the fact that garden waste makes up part of the figures. Being more urbanised than some of the other areas in the county, Crawley produces far less of this, meaning the borough’s recycling figures take an immediate hit.

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Mr Jones added an amendment to the motion calling on Bob Noyce, cabinet member for environment, sustainability and climate change, to write to the county council about reintroducing recycling credits.

He said: “Locally, the recycling credits payment scheme that helped bring forward recycling improvements – that the county council abolished back in 2020 despite all the objections about the damage it would do to recycling rates – has clearly come home to roost, as some of us at the time suggested they would.”

Conservative members abstained from voting on their own motion after the changes were agreed.