Wrong decision over recycling

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I WOULD like you to consider my thoughts on Onchan District Commissioners’ (ODC) decision to withdraw funding for the kerbside recycling trial scheme beyond September 2011 up to April 2012.

I attended the ODC meeting on Monday, February 14, as a member of the public/Onchan ratepayer.

ODC’s initial resistance to continuing funding was apparently based on a report drawn up by their chief executive, which made a number of supposedly factual assertions, leading initially to bizarre statements from some to the effect that recycling is bad for the planet.

These alleged facts have been thoroughly reviewed by the Department of Infrastructure, Zero Waste Mann, and IoM Friends of the Earth, and been shown to be mistaken in actual fact, and conclusions drawn to be therefore quite misleading.

At Monday’s meeting the DoI report was not even debated. The chair asked his CE for his opinion, was told the report was ‘not significant in any way’, and the meeting seemed satisfied with this stance.

I was fairly taken aback that such a well researched paper should not be deemed worthy of any sort of open debate.

However, chairman Mr Stowell said he thought the issue was not best taken forward by reference to ‘figures being trawled in from a variety of sources’.

I hoped this was a tacit acceptance of the unreliability of the original claimed data in the report by ODC chief executive, and a need to move to a wider consideration of these important issues.

Mr Stowell went on to describe in general principles how he sees the importance of recycling, and I applaud much of what he said.

For example, he said: ‘I believe we have to improve our carbon footprint overall and there will be a cost to it.’ And: ‘Our aim is to get our level of recycling increased.’ And he acknowledged that the kerbside collection scheme to date has produced a 100 per cent increase in recyclates. He stated his belief that ‘we must have something else in place otherwise we will lose the momentum’, and that he is very much in favour of a joined up recycling scheme island-wide, and that, as an example, ‘it would be abject lunacy to send glass to the EFW plant’ when it is already being usefully recycled.

Having espoused these principles with no dissenting voices from the other commissioners, I was feeling pleasantly surprised at this apparent shift, and then sadly amazed that the chair and all present went on to vote, with the notable exception of Mr Watterson, for a resolution which will achieve quite the opposite.

ODC voted unilaterally to pull out of the joined up three-way scheme with their partners from Douglas and Braddan, before the scheme has been finally and fully evaluated.

It was clear that ODC have no real Plan B. I did not hear that there was any firm alternative scheme proposed, other than some general comments that bring banks could be expanded, if suitable sites could be identified.

Any alternative has to be researched, planned, consulted on, and implemented by September, a challenge to say the least, with no lead officer formally identified, no working group membership discussed and no agreed time scale for reporting back.

There was no awareness among most of those present of the impracticality of recycling plastics through bring banks alone – which I understand is a significant problem – nor of the environmental costs of incinerating plastics, which are highly oil-costly in their production, an almost inevitable outcome of withdrawing from the kerbside scheme.

I felt also that scant regard was paid at the meeting to the probable increased vehicle emissions if a different scheme is put in place which relies entirely on people driving to bring bank sites.

Furthermore, a scheme reliant on people’s car use is fundamentally discriminatory, excluding several groups of people: for example people who are frail, or have a disability, are maybe homebound, or for any one of a number of reasons simply do not drive or own a vehicle.

All those who spoke were rightly and properly concerned to achieve value for money for Onchan ratepayers – I certainly do not wish to have to pay unjustifiable extra rates.

However, the figures briefly mentioned did not seem extortionate. I believe that adhering to their previously agreed six-month extension of the scheme would cost their constituents something of the order of £20 per household.

I think this is a relatively small amount to enable such an important trial scheme to be properly evaluated, and not undermined so late in the day, having previously voted for the continuation of the scheme.

I do not for a moment claim I have given a full report of the whole discussion, but I honestly believe I have picked out the most important themes and statements.

I am a member of IoM Friends of the Earth, but the views contained herein are purely my personal ones and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.

I sincerely hope that once the commissioners have time to reflect on the decision making process, they will see the contradictory and regressive course of action they have set in train, and place the matter back on the ODC agenda for urgent review.

I believe that Commissioners’ Standing Orders would have to be suspended in order to overturn this latest decision before six months have elapsed: this need not be a problem, as it is precisely this process which was used in order to pass the motion on Monday last.


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