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Exeter has no kerbside food waste collection

  • by JW

Almost half of Exeter’s grey bin contents is food waste which is burned rather than being separated out and turned into useful compost.

A young climate activist has launched her own composting scheme for local residents.


There’s a lot of greenwash provided by government and business when it comes to ‘recycling’:

“Recycling Is Garbage” – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Plastics and public relations – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Is the business of recycling just a fraud? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

One of the main issues, then, is to what extent we as individual consumers are responsible for getting rid of rubbish.

This is the view from Australia from some two years ago:

… a sustainable domestic recycling industry is some way off. We urgently need to start doing the things we already know will work, rather than playing endless rounds of a pointless blame game.

Don’t just blame government and business for the recycling crisis – it begins with us

And this is the view from Devon County Council at about the same time:

…the shocking amount that Devon residents are failing to recycle.

Who is to blame for the low recycling rates? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

At the same time, Exeter City Council was conducting a survey of residents views on rubbish and recycling in the city:

The City Council says it recycles 30% of all waste collected in the city, but other authorities in the region have a recycling rate of over 50%.

Exeter launches waste and recycling survey – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Two years have passed and not much has happened, with councillors blaming students for the shockingly low rate of recycling – as reported today by Ollie Heptinstall:

Unwanted grub makes up 47 per cent of the contents of black bag waste in the city – the highest number in Devon. Torridge is second-highest at 34 per cent and East Devon, with only 16 per cent, is the lowest.

The figures from research in 2017 have been included in a new waste management strategy for the county, writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

Exeter City Council does not yet provide separate food waste collections for households, though a limited trial is set to begin soon. Currently, residents have to put leftovers in their general waste for collection.

But discussing the analysis, updated every five years, Councillor Rob Hannaford said many students are ‘still not stepping up to the mark in terms of their recycling and reusing’. He added that, during his time in charge of environment and waste at the city council, spot-checks of bin bags found ‘food and vegetables in-date, clothes with their tags still on, unworn’.

Exeter councillor singles out university students for throwing away food

It is difficult for all councils at the moment:

The leader of Exeter City Council has also asked the government to do more to assist local authorities with the lack of drivers. Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme on Friday, Councillor Phil Bialyk (Labour, Exwick) warned of “a possibility” of disruption, with the ongoing threat of covid adding further strain on the workforce. However, he said they had managed to maintain household waste and recycling collection throughout the pandemic.

Devon councils call for more European workers – Radio Exe

In response, talking of personal responsibility, people are taking matters into their own hands, as reported earlier in the summer:

A young climate activist has launched her own composting scheme for local residents after being shocked that Exeter has no kerbside food waste collection.

Almost half of Exeter’s grey bin contents is food waste which is burned rather than being separated out and turned into useful compost. Although Exeter City Council is looking to introduce a new weekly kerbside sporting recycling service, including glass and food waste, the delay in doing so has led 20-year-old Kiri Ley to take matters into her own hands.

Young Exeter resident launches compost scheme after council delay – Devon Live

But, really, Exeter could be doing so much better, as reported, again, by Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter. last month:

Exeter’s recycling rates are currently the worst in Devon at 26 per cent of total waste collected. By comparison, neighbouring East Devon recycles 61 per cent of its waste and in Mid Devon the figure is 53 per cent. Devon County Council’s officer in charge of waste last year said the city’s recycling performance “needs attention”.

Council bottles out of glass recycling – Radio Exe

In fact, the city of Exeter could be doing a lot more generally when it comes to ‘green’ policies:

The ‘Net Zero’ Exeter plan at risk – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The city might well have lots of green spaces, but that can merely lead to yet more ‘greenwashing’ – and yet more press releases:

Exeter is one of UK’s greenest cities, new research reveals – Exeter City Council News

Exeter is one of the country’s top places to live for tree coverage – Exeter City Council News

Finally, there is more excellent investigative journalism from the Exeter Observer:

Exeter Observer – Climate & Environment

photo: A waste and recycling update from Denis the Dustcart – Exeter City Council News