Press release: LibDems repeat blueprint to regain City’s Recycling Credibility

Leeds Liberal Democrats hope that a recent U-turn by Leeds City Council to cancel charges for bulky waste collection offers a glimmer of hope that the Labour-run authority might be starting to listen to criticism of its worsening recycling record. They hope that, after multiple attempts, Liberal Democrat proposals for food waste collection, doorstep glass recycling, and cancelling waste disposal charges might finally be accepted by the ruling Labour Group at this weeks Annual Budget Meeting.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Stewart Golton, said:  “We’d proposed cancelling bulky waste charges last year, and it was rejected as ‘unaffordable’. Now perhaps the Labour regime have recognised the false accounting of ignoring the soaring costs for the increased flytipping the city has suffered, and realised we can’t afford not to abolish bulky waste charges. However, if we are really to win the war on flytipping, we must also abolish the DIY Tax imposed on Leeds residents since the Council chose to charge people for bringing home improvement inert waste to council tips. That is why we are repeating our amendment again this year to have these charges abolished.”

Leeds Liberal Democrats are concerned by the lack of ambition in the City’s waste strategy, and the worsening reputation of the city due to its deteriorating recycling rate, and hope that their ‘recycled’ strategy will get the go ahead to put Leeds back at the top of the recycling league.

Recent statistics from the Local Government Association on waste managed by local authorities show an improving situation in England during 2020/21, with less waste going to landfill, and more food waste being collected, despite Covid pressures, with Cllr Darren Rockwell, LGA Environment Spokesperson saying: “These figures are testament to the hard work of councils in maintaining levels of recycling and diverting millions of tonnes of waste from going to landfill, especially during the pressures of lockdown restrictions, and demonstrate that the current waste collection system is working well. In particular, it is great to see the work Councils are doing with residents to increase correct food waste disposal, with food waste collections up by 11%.”

However, this national performance improvement is in sharp contrast to our experience in Leeds.

“Instead of increasing by 11%, food waste collection has reduced by 100% thanks to the Council cancelling the food waste collection service in Rothwell, which was shamefully still officially a ‘pilot’ after operating for over a decade without the Labour group having the ambition to expand the service citywide. It’s for over a decade that the Liberal Democrats have been proposing at every Council Budget Meeting the expansion of food waste collection across the city, so you can’t fault us on consistency and determination! Our proposals for an anaerobic digester to treat the city’s food waste will also contribute to the city’s energy security by generating cheap sustainable power that could be fed into the grid or power up council vehicles.”

The council’s cancellation of food waste collection has contributed to its already worsening recycling rate, being one of the few remaining councils to recycle less than 40% of its waste.

“In 2022 to have a recycling rate of 39% is shameful, and a poor reflection on a city population that has real recycling ambition, and needs the Council to step up and enable every household to do their best. We also need to recognise that household finances are under pressure too:  How inappropriate and counterproductive is it to expect a resident on a limited income who wants to manage their waste responsibly to pay for a replacement bin? Our amendment will cancel those charges. 

“How can a Council that says it wants to create a car free city rely on a system of glass recycling that discriminates against people without a car? Our bottle bank collection system is an anachronism of grotty, litter strewn drop off points at the farthest corner of a badly lit supermarket carpark. Our amendment will finally start the introduction of citywide doorstep glass collection which, along with doorstep food waste collection, will get this city back nearer the top of the national recycling league to better reflect the collective environmental ambition of this city’s residents.”