Essex to aim for zero black bag waste within 30 years

Essex County Council says it wants the amount of black bag rubbish produced by households to fall to zero in just over 30 years – as it sets to launch its waste strategy from now until 2055.

The council says it needs to update its waste strategy to remain wholly relevant. The updated waste strategy for Essex, covering the period 2024 to 2055, provides an updated strategic framework for how the council aims to reduce the environmental and economic impact of waste.

Essex County Council is set to consult on its draft plan which will replace the current adopted waste strategy in a bid to reduce the £130 million a year burden on taxpayers and the environment through a list of questions and multi-choice answers.

These include residents’ opinions on the ambitions among which is an aim to reduce the amount of residual waste produced per person by 10 per cent by 2030 and halve the amount by 2042. The council wants Essex to be a zero waste county by 2055.

It aims to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The council says it wants to do this by ensuring the amount of waste reused, recycled, or composted will reach 65 per cent by 2035. It says it wants no more than 10 per cent of waste to be sent to landfill by 2035.

Currently all residual waste – around 350,000 tonnes – is being sent to landfill, exacerbated through the failure of the mechanical and biological treatment facility in Basildon. The site, which stopped receiving deliveries in June 2020, was meant to handle up to 420,000 tonnes of waste but was unable to process the amount of waste sent there.

Although the amount of remaining recycled waste has increased from 21 per cent in 2000/01 to 52 per cent in 2020/21 this has plateaued over recent years and in some areas is falling.

The strategy does place a large onus on residents’ behaviour. The findings from research in 2022 showed that the impact of waste on the environment is not fully understood. Many residents find reducing their waste difficult and want to see real change from businesses and the wider economy – for example, to change the amount of packaging used.

However, almost all residents said they had recently engaged in some form of reuse or repair, often using online marketplaces.

The county council has said making clear its waste hierarchy placing priorities in order of prevention, ruse, recycling, recovery and disposal – clearly stating the environmental impact of waste and benefits of waste reduction – will be important to future information and education programmes.

For its part, the council will ensure that all Essex residents have access to separate food waste collections by 2026 and that all Essex residents have access to comprehensive recycling services for plastic, paper and card, metal, glass, food and garden waste, by 2026.

A statement as part of a decision to the discussed by Essex County Council cabinet on September 12 said: “The way Essex collects and disposes of waste is an issue that affects every resident in the county. We all produce waste which is collected, treated, and disposed of by the borough, city and district councils, and Essex County Council working in partnership.

“The way we do this going forward is now being presented to the public for their view. It is important for our environment and our aim to hit net zero that we reduce our waste and increase recycling. Every person plays a part in this important issue.

“It is not feasible to continue to landfill waste in the future because it is not good for the environment and is also cost prohibitive. We also need to look carefully at how we collect and treat waste so we can maximise reuse and recycling. Therefore, all councils in Essex, called the Essex Waste Partnership, have come together to discuss this very carefully to put together a strategy for decades to come. It is a vital decision and therefore it is important to consult with people to gain their view.”

The consultation period is set to open on September 13 to close on November 22.

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter