Grantham Journal column: Why can’t we take a leaf out of recycling by those great Danes?

Courtney Finn
Courtney Finn
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For many years we are constantly told we must recycle to reduce waste with the government setting targets and local authorities investing huge amounts in the equipment to collect waste and local entrepreneurial firms like the Mountain family setting up recycling centres to turn waste into products for sale and reuse.

The experts say that only 14 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled and maybe eight milion tonnes per year end up in the oceans of the world with severe consequences for fish and other wild life.

Much packaging from supermarkets, for example, can be recycled but much cannot. The crisp packets declare that they are not “currently recyclable” as if there is moment coming soon when they will be. But this moment never comes and it is unclear whether the food manufacturers will ever develop a recyclable crisp packet. It is unclear whether the government is asking them or telling them to do so. It is clear, however, that there is little public concern and so far Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, the celebrated media chef, has been concentrating on food waste and the ivory trade.

Hugh produced a great TV programme on the non recyclable coffee cup that most people thought was recyclable but which takes hundreds of years to degrade. We live in a world of ever advancing technology and surely it must be possible to invent a crisp packet that can go in our grey bins and which does not make crisps too expensive? There seems to be more food products whose packaging is not currently recyclable than that which is but are our supermarkets accepting the status quo because they simply don’t care? Surely they should be putting pressure on their suppliers to effect change, the kind of change which hits the headlines only when Marmite is threatened with a 10% price rise.

So much food packaging ends up in our streets and roads thrown down by those who seem not to care about litter or the state of our town and the wider area. The A1 south of Grantham is a litter disaster with the central reservation clogged with rubbish thrown from vehicles. I have never seen the Highways Agency doing any clean ups on the south bound A1 as they seem to do north of Grantham. SKDC could do more. There is not one single litter bin on the entire length of Belton Lane in town.

It is rather different in Denmark where for many years a deposit system has operated for glass and plastic bottles, and also now metal cans. You simply make sure they are clean and then take them back to the supermarket and hand them in via a “hole in the wall” weighing machine which prints out a credit note which you can deduct at the checkout from your next shopping bill. When we lived in Denmark in the 1990’s there were few discarded bottles about as they got picked up by eagle eyed savers as they had a value. So there was less litter and the supermarkets returned the bottles and cans via a recycling system. The cost of the system is covered by a tax on packaging materials. If little Denmark can do it why can’t we?