To be truly sustainable, a community must have a good knowledge of its waste. How much of it is there? Where does it go? Perhaps it will even have a waste policy – or, even better, a zero waste policy?
To this end, Wye has been much better than its neighbouring communities over the past 23 years, galvanised into action by its very own eco-pioneer (Richard Boden) and his community recycling company: Wyecycle.
In the 1990s, Wyecycle was well-known (in waste circles) for high rates of recycling, for promoting the composting of food waste and fortnightly collections and for encouraging the community to produce less waste in the first place.
Now, however, the organisation’s future is unclear.
Last year, Ashford Borough Council, aware that the town had one of the lowest rates of recycling in the country, got its act together and, working with two other boroughs (Maidstone and Swale) announced a new waste contract to run from April 2013.
This will see a dramatic improvement in recycling across the borough with, to quote from the website:
- a weekly food waste collection,
- a fortnightly recycling collection, which will now include plastics, cardboard and Tetra Pak cartons, as well as the usual tins, cans, glass, paper, aerosols, foil and textiles
- a fortnightly non-recyclable household waste collection
- an optional paid-for fortnightly green waste collection
So where does this leave Wyecycle?
Its future seems to be in the hands of Biffa Municipal Ltd – the company which won the three borough waste contract and which can subcontract to local community-based collectors if it so wishes.
This may be a difficult choice.
On the one hand, Wyecycle is a tiny, idiosyncratic and potentially awkward partner for a large corporate which is built on economies of scale.
But on the other hand, despite being a pale shadow of its 1990s incarnation, the organisation still has vocal supporters in the community who will point to the fact that the company processes waste close to home, provides useful local employment, and could form the basis for a more comprehensive community waste service like that run by Proper Job in Devon.
Indeed, some may even remember that Wyecycle won a prize for waste reduction in 2001.
And who presented the prize? Biffa of course!