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Recycling in need of Olympic ambition

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I really miss the Olympics. I admit I was one of the lucky ones who got tickets.

I also admit to being a complete anorak who took some photos of the impressive array of recycling bins (including bins for ponchos) at the Olympic Park as well as a slightly blurred picture of Usain Bolt whizzing past in a 200m heat.

Being a Gloucestershire girl at heart, I took an interest in the unofficial medal table and the heated debate around the way in which that table could be interpreted - including which small island would come out on top if golds per population were the measure.

What the table told us, of course, was that the countries with a larger population were at an advantage.

So I was rather surprised to note that former minister for waste and recycling Lord Henley appears to have suggested in a recent media interview that England’s size, when compared with other UK nations, is a reason for not implementing some of the more ambitious recycling initiatives.

For those of you not up to date with the four nations’ recycling tables, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland have shown a great deal more ambition with a wide variety of policy instruments. These include setting higher targets, implementing ambitious plans for food waste collections, landfill bans and even plastic bag taxes.

England, rapidly heading towards the recycling wooden spoon is, according to the more-recently-former minister for waste and recycling Lord Taylor, “not seeking to define tight parameters with regards to how we deal with waste, and yet of course we recognise the importance of providing a lead”.

It’s not exactly a medal-winning strategy and I have yet to find an example of where leadership has started from the bottom of a table. 

I don’t want to be a mood hoover, however, so let’s end on a positive.

The sustainability targets around the construction of the Olympic venues, and the way in which events were run were incredibly ambitious.

If the Olympics have taught us anything it’s that ambitious goals bring out the best performances - in sport as well as in recycling.

Joy Blizzard, chair, Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee

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