More Rubbish and a Response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) Request

Last month, I wrote a post on one of my pet hates - lack of context when quoting numerical data. When, for example, mainstream media (MSM) and politicians give you the 'facts', they often leave out the necessary context required to decide whether the information is important or relevant. For example, how often do you see claims that eating/drinking something doubles your chances of getting cancer - yet, when you look at the raw absolute data, this translates from a 1-in-100 chance to a 2-in-100 chance of getting cancer - probably not enough to warrant changing your lifestyle.

In the case of Herefordshire Council, just saying that 3000 tonnes of stuff put out for recycling had to go to landfill, because it was contaminated, does not paint a complete picture. We need to know whether 3000 tonnes is a big number or a small number (h/t More or Less). In practice, the 3000 tonnes of recyclables redirected to landfill represents less than 10% of the total recyclable material collected. We should still do everything we can to reduce the amount sent to landfill but a <10% wastage does not seem that great, considering Herefordshire operates a one-bin recycling scheme for glass, plastic, paper/cardboard, tins/cans.

I submitted a FoI request to Herefordshire Council on April 27th asking for more up-to-date data on waste/recycling tonnages because their website only reported upto 2018-19. I received a reply on 4th May containing the information I requested and a note to say the Council's website had been updated - I'm going to take credit for that update!

As can be seen from the bar chart above, in the first year of the pandemic (April 2020 to April 2021) there was a small increase in non-recycled household waste and slight decrease in recycled household waste. Could this be attributed to a move away from independent food shops (e.g. greengrocers, butchers) towards on-line supermarket orders (more packaging) and less eating-out and more home cooking during various lockdowns? 

Finally, Herefordshire Council provided a breakdown of the types and amounts of material that went through the recycling system. It is interesting to look at changes during the first year of the pandemic (2020-2021).

  • decrease in paper and card recycling - surprising considering increase in Amazon deliveries but, perhaps, fewer newspapers and magazines bought
  • increase in glass recycling (wine, beer and cider bottles?)
  • increase in plastic recycling - more supermarket shopping?
  • decrease in metal recycling - people drinking wine and spirits instead of tinned lager, coke?
  • drop in green waste recycling - a bit of a surprise that one as you might expect an uptake in gardening activities during lockdowns. Maybe more people composted at home though I wouldn't bet on that!


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