From flying robots cleaning up the streets to endless queues of lorries at the pumps, the UK wasn’t short of breaking news in the world of waste management last year.
So now the sun has set on another year that a lot of us would’ve preferred to skip, we take a look back on 2021’s biggest news stories in the waste management industry…
Many businesses are facing a looming crisis in 2022 after the withdrawal of rebated fuel entitlements was confirmed last year.
Red diesel – a duty-light fuel that makes up 15% of diesel use in the UK – will no longer be available for the majority of the nation’s industries, including waste management and construction.
From April 2022, businesses running heavy machinery – such as SunSkips’ own recycling screening line – will have to pay the full duty on white diesel at 57.95p per litre, instead of the 46.81p per litre for red diesel, which works out at five times the tax.
As if he hadn’t got himself in enough hot water with unfavourable headlines in 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruffled yet more feathers in October when he claimed that “recycling doesn’t work”.
As SunSkips managing director Mat Stewart mentioned in his opinion piece, Boris wasn’t entirely wrong in saying that recycling alone won’t get us out of the climate crisis and that we should be focusing on cutting down on our use of plastic.
But putting it in such bold terms (in front of a room of children, no less) didn’t win many hearts in the recycling industry.
The Recycling Association’s Simon Ellin was quick to speak out on Mr Johnson’s comments, saying the PM had “lost the plastic plot”.
While this was a story that impacted the nation at large, the waste management industry definitely suffered a blow in September 2021 when UK motorists started panic-buying petrol, creating huge queues at fuel stations.
Several local authorities across the nation announced the cancellation of collections as residents saw domestic waste piling up on top of the wheelie bin.
Brexit and driver shortages were also blamed for the delays, speaking of which…
While the news focused mostly on supply shortages, the lack of qualified HGV drivers in the UK workforce caused mayhem for waste management businesses, including SunSkips.
In public waste management news, there were even shocking reports of lorry drivers being held up on the job and approached by other firms trying to poach them with promises of pay rises (and succeeding!)
SunSkips worked hard to offer competitive salaries to attract great quality drivers in 2021 and has plans to make use of the Road to Logistics scheme, which helps UK drivers train and find work relevant to their skillset and location.
In an effort to combat the city’s spiralling waste problem, Cambridge City Council launched an innovative new smart bin system in May 2021.
Smart bins make public waste collections more streamlined by automatically compacting waste down to as little as 10% of its original volume.
The bins are also equipped with sensors that tell drivers when they need emptying so they can skip the ones that haven’t reached capacity yet, making collection routes more efficient.
Smells like the future of waste management to us!
A Suffolk Recycles report revealed that a tiny fraction of the county’s cardboard recycling (0.7%) actually gets processed domestically, with the vast majority being shipped abroad.
That’s a whopping 6,856 tonnes of recyclable materials heading overseas, mostly to Thailand and India.
Suffolk Waste Partnership explained that the reason for this is because the UK simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to recycle it at home, so exporting is a much better option than not recycling at all.
But with exports comes carbon emissions, which has its own detrimental effect on the environment…
The UK Government announced £295m in funding for English councils to prepare for free separate food collections for all households from 2025.
The move – part of the Government’s Net Zero Plan – aims to provide 440,000 well-paid jobs and attract £90 billion in investment in 2030.
Collecting food waste from residents will support the plan’s objective of “near elimination of biodegradable municipal waste to landfill from 2028”.
“We are committed to removing inconvenience and increasing availability of green choices,” promised the ambitious plan.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) announced a 16% increase in incidents of fly-tipping in England during the pandemic.
Local authorities reported 1.13 million cases across the country in 2020-21. Defra said limitations caused by the pandemic – such as the closure of local recycling centres – were to blame for the increase.
The news comes despite recent campaigns to crack down on waste crime, with local authorities rallying behind the #SCRAPflytipping hashtag on social media.
In the previous year, fly-tipping cost taxpayers in England a whopping £10.9 million to clear up.
A study using flying drones in Bournemouth found that accusatory messaging actually led to more people dropping litter.
However, the initiative – conducted by environmental charity Hubbub and funded by fast-food restaurant chain McDonald’s – used the data collected by the drones to strategically place bins, resulting in a 79% reduction in litter.
Brightly-coloured containers, glow-in-the-dark bins, and social-media style voting receptacles that allowed people to answer polls with a cigarette butt all played a part in taking a significant amount of rubbish off the streets.
After successfully launching the Cambridge waste and recycling site back in February 2021, skip hire firm SunSkips announced it would be serving an even larger area of East Anglia with another location in Haverhill.
The new Haverhill recycling site – the town’s first – will have the capacity for 75,000 tonnes of waste a year and provide much-needed jobs for locals.
Work began on the company’s third site in October and is set to be completed by early 2022.
Mat Stewart, SunSkips managing director, said, “At a time when ethical waste management is more important than ever in order to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, we’re really pleased to be able to bring quality commercial and domestic waste management to the Haverhill area.”
Stay tuned to the SunSkips blog in 2022 for more of the latest waste management news, as well as updates on what we’ve been getting up to while serving skips to Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.