OVER HALF OF RECYCLABLE MATERIALS COULD END UP IN LANDFILL
A skills shortage in the waste management industry is resulting in grim implications for the environment and hefty fines for local councils.
Over half (53 per cent) of potentially recyclable waste that cannot be correctly differentiated and separated by recycling staff ends up in the bin, according to City & Guilds.
UK residents too are also slowing down the process by sometimes putting non-recyclable materials in recycling bins, with nearly nine out of ten (88 per cent) recycling staff citing this as a problem they have to contend with.
The research, from the UK's leading awarding body for work related qualifications, highlights a lack of training within the recycling industry and was carried out as part of a new drive to encourage more local authorities and businesses to take up recycling qualifications. One in ten (11 per cent) recycling staff acknowledge that lack of training is not only damaging their career prospects, but also the success of recycling schemes. A third (32 per cent) believe that with better training the amount of waste recycled would improve.
Increasing the amount of material that is recycled is vital for local councils - by 2015 they will have to recycle or compost 33 per cent of household waste. If these targets are not met then they will receive a minimum fine of œ150 for every tonne of waste that has gone to landfill rather than being recycled.
From an environmental aspect, better recycling could result in a significant decrease of household gases, equivalent to taking 3.5 million cars off the road each year.
Encouragingly, many recycling operatives are supportive of training and are keen to increase their industry knowledge so that they can do their job more effectively. Nine out of ten (90 per cent) of those questioned feel that they need proper training to do their job more effectively.
Lynne Oliver, waste recycling expert from City & Guilds says: 'The recycling industry needs to ensure that its staff are engaged and motivated and have the relevant skills to do their job to the best of their ability. Our research has found that nearly one in five (16 per cent) operatives feel they have no clear career path. This is something we want to change - we understand the importance of giving an employee direction and ambition in their career.'
Richard Johnson, Strategy Development Manager at EU Skills, agrees with City & Guilds: 'The newly launched NVQ Level 1 and 2 (and forthcoming Level 3 and 4) in Recycling Operations will ensure that the workforce within this industry has the appropriate skills required to undertake their occupations efficiently. These qualifications will also clearly define the opportunities for employees to progress within their chosen occupation, which in turn may act as a mechanism to encourage individuals to enter the recycling industry as a viable career option.'
It is not only recycling operatives that need to be educated on the types of materials that can be recycled, a third (32 per cent) of workers feel that the public are not provided with sufficient information about recycling rules. Worryingly, recycling staff have found that 71 per cent of plastics are categorised incorrectly by residents, as householders are confused by the more than twenty varieties of plastics and how to sort them.
Other mistakes made by householders guaranteed to rile recycling staff include not correctly separating materials (76 per cent), not preparing materials correctly before recycling, such as rinsing containers and removing lids, (70 per cent), and putting the wrong types of glass (58 per cent) and paper (56 per cent) in recycling bins.
This lack of recycling knowledge among householders is also limiting the amount of material that can be recycled. Nearly seven out of ten (68 per cent) recycling staff claim that up to 10 per cent of everything they collect cannot be recycled due to mistakes made by householders.
Oliver continued: 'Today, more than ever, we need a culture change towards recycling. Everyone - from local leaders and businesses to waste recycling staff and householders - need to realise that they can make a huge contribution towards Britain's recycling and environmental efforts.'
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City & Guilds (www.cityandguilds.com) is the UK's leading awarding body for work-related qualifications. The charity operates from three major hubs: London (servicing Europe, the Caribbean and Americas), Johannesburg (servicing Africa), and Singapore (servicing Asia, Australia and New Zealand). In total, City & Guilds awards 1.3 million certificates to learners each year on over 500 subjects ranging from hair and beauty to catering and management. 1.9 million people are currently working towards a City & Guilds qualification. The City & Guilds Group comprises the Institute of Leadership & Management (management and leadership awards), NPTC (land-based awards) and the Hospitality Awarding Body (catering and hospitality awards).
* The Level 1 NVQ in Recycling Operations includes two pathways (Segregation and Collection/Transfer, Receipt/Reception and Processing) as well as the following core units:
o Contribute to a safe working environment for self and others
o Maintain effective working relationships during recycling operations
o Contribute to maintaining standards of service
o Contribute to the sustainability, maintenance and preservation of the environment
* The Level 2 NVQ Recycling Operations includes four pathways (Segregation, Collection/Transfer, Receipt/Reception, and Processing) as well as the core units below:
o Monitor and maintain health, safety and security in the workplace
o Maintain good standards of health and safety for self and others
o Contribute to maintaining sustainable development and environmental good practice at work
o Maintain and develop personal performance
o Establish and maintain working relationships
* Under the EU Landfill Directive we must dramatically reduce, over the next 20 years, the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill. Meanwhile, municipal waste has been increasing at around 3% per annum; slightly above GDP. If municipal waste continues to increase at this rate it will have doubled from the 1995 level by 2020.
(Source: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
* It is estimated that 42 million tonnes of industrial and commercial waste was land filled in England in 1998/99. The Government expects this figure to be reduced to 36 million tonnes by 2005. (Source: Waste Online)
* Households are now recycling more than a fifth of their waste - almost 23 per cent. (Source: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
* UK rate of household recycling is behind some of the European countries such as Norway (68 per cent), The Netherlands (64 per cent) and Germany (57 per cent). (Source: The Independent, Recycling Rates Soar in England, but still trail Europeans, 14 September 2005)
* On average, every person in Britain produces about seven times their own weight in waste a year. (Source: The Independent, Recycling Rates Soar in England, but still trail Europeans, 14 September 2005)
* Britain faces an EU fine of œ180 million per year due to the Governments failure to meet EU refuse and recycling targets. (Source: London Remade)
* Regional household recycling rates were highest for the East (23.4 per cent) for the first time, followed by the South East (22.8 per cent). The North East (12.3 per cent) and London (13.3 per cent) had the lowest recycling rates, although all regions increased their recycling rates from the previous year. (Source: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
* The household recycling rates of individual local authorities ranged from 2.5 to 46 per cent. The majority of authorities recycled between 10 and 20 per cent of their household waste. (Source: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Author/Source: Band & Brown Communications
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