This week’s In My View column comes from Reading Borough Council leader Jason Brock. He writes:

How much of your black bin do you think is made up of food waste? Apparently the answer is 41 per cent for houses in Reading, which surprised me.

I’m told an average of 18 per cent of waste in black bins can also be recycled if it is put in a red bin instead. Add that all together and it means around 60 per cent of all waste the Council collects from black bins could be handled in a more environmentally friendly way. Although much of our waste that would otherwise end up in landfill is used to produce energy, this still means that some refuse is being unnecessarily buried in the ground.

Yesterday the Council announced a major new campaign aimed at boosting Reading’s recycling rate to 50 per cent. At the moment as a town we recycle just 32 per cent of our household waste, so there’s a lot to do.

There are, of course, some good reasons for that. Reading isn’t South Oxfordshire, or Wokingham, or Windsor, where the vast majority of properties are houses, many with driveways and their own bins. Reading is tight, urban town with a high percentage of flats with shared bins. It is also a university town and a major centre for employment in the south east. That means a high number of houses converted into flats or properties in multiple occupation (i.e. rented by the room). These things make pushing up recycling rates a bit more complicated than in some of our leafy and more spacious neighbouring boroughs.

As the body responsible for recycling rates in Reading, we want to make it as easy as possible for people. We need to get better at communicating what can and cannot be recycled, which I know still causes some confusion. We also need to make some changes to how we collect waste from the doorstep.

Yesterday the Council announced that it is planning to introduce a new weekly food waste collection service for Reading. If agreed, this would begin in autumn 2020 and would make a big difference to recycling rates and landfill costs. The second part – and it’s the part which is likely to grab some headlines – is to replace 240 litre black bins with 140 litre ones. Research by WRAP shows this has helped reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill in other parts of the country.

So while we are proposing to reduce black bin capacity by 100 litres – or 50 litres per week – we are at the same time planning to introduce a new 23 litre food waste caddy for every home in Reading, which would be collected every week. That means an overall reduction in refuse bin capacity of 27 litres per week per household. Weekly food waste collection also reduces the length of time that organic waste has to decompose, especially convenient for us all in the summer months.

Earlier this year Reading Borough Council declared a climate crisis and we are committed to doing all we can to make our town carbon neutral by 2030, but that is not something the Council can achieve on its own. At the moment Reading generates around 59,000 tonnes of household waste every single year. Getting better at recycling is something we can do to protect our environment.