Report taken from Saturday Telegraph 29th Nov 2008


The economic downturn coupled with the end of the Olympics in China has led to a collapse in the market for used paper, plastic and aluminum.

This has left councils with tonnes of recycled material that it is impossible to sell on.

Already some local authorities are having to store mountains of bottles and piles of paper in the hope of the market picking up again.

Many are running out of storage and have been given permission to use of Ministry of Defence buildings and factories if space runs out.

However some local authorities are scrapping recycling services altogether for fear of being left with piles of unwanted waste.

The latest area to cut down on services is in the South West. The Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP), which manages waste and recycling on behalf of local councils in the area, is set to remove 31 mixed paper banks from supermarkets, libraries and other public spaces across the county.

Spokesman Mark Blaker said: "They are being removed as a result of the credit crunch basically.

"If you imagine much of our paper goes to China, for example, to make cardboard boxes.

"But at the moment, those boxes are not being made and exported to America like they were, so what's happened here is a knock-on effect.

"Prices in the summer for recycled material were at an artificial high, which is why the drop seems so dramatic, but now the product's price is pretty much zero pounds."

The cuts come after householders in Hertfordshire were told that they can no longer recycle yoghurt pots, margarine tubs or food trays. In Devon, councils cannot find anyone to take their steel cans after their normal outlet refused to accept any more.

And in Oswestry, in Shropshire, there is a giant mountain of recycled paper sitting untouched because in the past month its sale value has fallen by 80 per cent.

In Cambridge, a waste-processing firm - unable to find any other market for it - has resorted to turning cardboard into compost for farmers to plough into their fields.

Peter Ainsworth, environment spokesman for the Tories, said whatever happens recycled waste should not be sent to landfill.

"Clearly it would be a disaster just as normal people have got into the habit of recycling if they are suddenly discouraged from doing so. The only solution is to stockpile until the market recovers. I do not think councils should give up."

The Local Government Association is in discussion with the Government about maintaining recycling services through the downturn.