Plastics Confusion: Making Sure Residents Don’t Lose Faith
Local authority officers know better than anyone that plastic is a big concern for many residents. Those same residents want explanations to be simpler and clearer. North London Waste Authority (NLWA) is leading the way on supporting local authority officers to tackle this issue; the UK’s second largest waste disposal authority is launching a range of innovative knowledge-sharing opportunities to help council officers give residents confidence in their local services and empower consumers to make better choices.
NLWA has seen that while there is great appetite for reusable alternatives in north London, residents want to understand more about plastics as well. They want to understand why we have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ plastics. And they want reassurance that local authorities are doing everything they can to extend the life of materials and prevent plastic pollution.
NLWA wants to see consistency and clarity of messaging whenever information is provided to consumers. Some initiatives in the Resources and Waste Strategy for England could contribute to this agenda, such as a consistent set of recyclable materials, eco-design requirements, or the ‘polluter pays’ principle. But can we shape requirements to benefit from local experience and what can local authorities do in the meantime?
In an effort to support waste and recycling officers to rise to the challenge, NLWA is inviting them to a free workshop, delivered by Ricardo Energy and Environment, entitled ‘Understanding Plastics – Helping residents make the right choices’. The session takes place on Friday 15 March 2019 as part of NLWA’s annual waste prevention conference and it will give officers the opportunity to share challenges and ideas. They will consider how best to present information about plastics to residents and how to help them make more informed choices as consumers. One of the workshop outcomes will be the production of a list of all plastic types, detailing where they sit on the hierarchy, which will be made available to local authority officers. Then, in May, a free webinar will be delivered by NLWA and Ricardo Energy and Environment, to share findings from the workshop and explore how to utilise the circular economy in plastic waste management.
Cllr Clyde Loakes, Chair of NLWA, said, “Now, more than ever, residents are looking at the bigger picture. They tell us that the system doesn’t make sense – the fact that one waste type is recycled on one street, but not on another; the fact that they can’t just look at a piece of packaging to see how to dispose of it. Rightly, they don’t see why it can’t be simpler. And needless to say, if local authorities aren’t able to respond to these concerns, there is a risk that residents lose confidence and faith in us.
“The Resources and Waste Strategy could help us to put consumer experience at the heart of all decisions relating to resource management and demystify plastics. But in the meantime, NLWA wants to provide local authority officers with the time and space to consider how best to approach this hot topic.”
The workshop takes place during the afternoon of NLWA’s annual conference, the North London Waste Prevention Exchange. The theme this year is ‘Re-imagining waste: moving away from single use towards a circular economy.’ Industry professionals from the UK and abroad will consider the challenges and opportunities linked to reuse, asking questions such as ‘Are consumers victims or culprits of a throwaway culture?’ The conference is open to waste industry professionals, or anyone with an interest in the waste and resources sector. For more information, or to book a free place, visit wiseuptowaste.org.uk/nlwpe.