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'Carry on recycling' call

PUBLISHED: 10:05 08 December 2008 | UPDATED: 21:58 05 July 2010

Falling prices for recycled materials are hitting council coffers across Norfolk and Suffolk but officials say it is "business as usual" and they are urging residents to continue supporting kerbside collections.

Falling prices for recycled materials are hitting council coffers across Norfolk and Suffolk but officials say it is “business as usual” and they are urging residents to continue supporting kerbside collections.

Councils in Norfolk have been warned not to expect a profit from recycling household waste this year as volatile markets mean some materials have more than halved in value and others have stopped making money - leaving councils to foot the transportation bill.

But the Norfolk Waste Partnership (NWP), which consists of all the district councils, the county council and the Environment Agency, has vowed to maintain its current levels of recycling - even if it means making a loss.

And a spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said they were continuing to push forward with recycling to meet their targets.

“We would not just stop recycling; we have targets to meet and we are trying to become the greenest county in England. For us it is business as usual,” she said.

Last year Norfolk councils recycled nearly 40pc of the 394,853 tonnes of household waste collected.

Mark Allen, Norfolk County Council's waste resource manager (operations), said: “Financially it is tough because of the volatile recycling commodities market. We haven't seen such a sharp decline so quickly before.

“All recycled materials are someone else's raw material and if they are making less, they are using less and if prices fall generally then they are more likely to go for higher quality materials so there is no demand for the low-quality materials.

“Overall we are still making money because newspapers and magazines, while dropping in price, are still making enough to cover our costs. However, there will not be the predicted profits to share out this year which will hit the districts because they had it in their budgets. It is too soon to say about next year.

A spoesman said: “The Norfolk Waste Partnership has agreed to maintain recycling. As long as someone wants it, we will recycle it - even if we have to pay.

“In Norfolk over the last couple of years we have made sure the materials have gone to European markets which are less volatile but might not get the best price. The situation now could have been worse if we were relying on other markets, such as China.”

A year ago material such as aluminium was getting £1,000 a tonne at the factory gate but the current price is about £450 a tonne.

While light iron (which includes steel cans) was worth £30 a tonne in the past but now has no value and the partnership has to pay transport costs for it to be taken away.

Bob Wade, Broadland's environmental protection manager, speaking on behalf of NWP, said: “No one knows the full extent of the downturn, and how long it will last, but we will be carefully monitoring any impact it may have on our recycling activities. “Over the past few weeks the situation has remained unchanged and our services are operating normally.”

The partnership is looking into other options, including storage of materials and, in the longer term, finding alternative uses.

Chris Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, said local authorities needed to take a long-term view.

He said: “Local authorities in England and Wales must hold their nerve.

“The collection, treatment and reprocessing capacity for recyclable waste in England and Wales must be retained and expanded if we are to meet our legal targets on landfill waste.

“There can be no return to the bad old days of sending too much waste to landfill.”

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