ST HELENS’ new recycling system has caused plenty of debate in the Star’s Opinion pages.

The rollout, which began on September 11, has seen an enhanced bags and boxes system brought in.

The council said features of the system include an improved lid to keep the contents dry and a heavier weight in the bottom to stop them from blowing away in the wind. 

'Multiple containers'

However, some residents have questioned the maintaining of a ‘multiple container’ arrangement for residents' recycling.

In a recent column for the Star, St Helens Council leader David Baines said that the multiple-bag system is needed due to “cross-contamination” making recycling harder if a 'one-bin' arrangement were in place.

He added that upcoming national government rules will “force every council to do what we do right now” and said it would be “a huge waste of money” to move away from the current system.

Cllr Baines wrote: “The most common question the council get (and one myself and other councillors have asked because we’re residents here too!) is why can’t we just have one bin for recycling like some other places do, and the answer is straightforward – a ‘one bin’ system is worse for the environment because material is cross-contaminated making recycling harder, and it’s expected that the government are going to introduce national rules for recycling to force every council to do what we do right now so it would be a huge waste of money to move away from the current system.”

St Helens Star: Cllr David BainesCllr David Baines (Image: St Helens Council)

He added: “Just sticking all your rubbish in the brown bin might be easy but it costs the council money that could be used for other essential services.

“The council found that more than 50% of what goes into brown bins could easily be recycled using the current containers. Every tonne of waste put in the brown bin costs taxpayers £120 for disposal and treatment.

“A little effort from all of us would make a huge difference to budgets and the environment.”

Some Star readers have criticised the ‘new system, citing other local authorities that have what they say are “simpler” systems. Some have raised questions over the claims of the necessity of a muti-container system.

What the government has said

The Star contacted the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to ask for the government's position on recycling and whether different types of waste should be "co-mingled". 

A spokesman for DEFRA provided a background briefing of the government’s position on recycling.

He stated that local authorities have “flexibility to take into account particular local circumstances”.

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The spokesman explained that under a new Section 45 under the Environmental Protection (as amended by the Environment Act 2021) all local authorities in England must make arrangements for “a core set of materials to be collected for recycling from households”. This includes paper and card; plastic; glass; metal; food waste and garden waste.  

He added these changes “do not introduce a one-size-fits-all blueprint” and said “local authorities can still decide to collect two or more recyclable waste streams together in cases where it is appropriate”. This enables local authorities “flexibility to take into account particular local circumstances”, he said.

The spokesman said the only exception to this is that food and garden waste must always be collected separately from the dry recyclable waste streams (paper and card; plastic; glass; metal)   

However, the spokesman did add: “We will shortly be publishing our government response to our second consultation on recycling consistency.

“This will confirm exact implementation dates and provide further detail on regulations and funding for local authorities to be made in advance of the implementation dates.”