Come clean on why city’s residents are stopped from recycling plastics, say Greens

Come clean on why city’s residents are stopped from recycling plastics, say Greens

FOI reveals Veolia ‘not willing’ to adapt £1bn contract to include plastics recycling


Greens have called on the Labour Council to come clean about plastics recycling in the city after a Freedom of Information Request from Materials Recycling World magazine revealed the waste disposal company Veolia are ‘not willing to change their position’ on plastic waste. The call was featured in a comment piece in local government trade journal Materials Recycling World[1] from Convenor of the Green Group of Councillors,  Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty.

The contents of a letter responding to a Government query on recycling rates states that “Whilst other Councils can and do recycle these kinds of materials, the B&HCC is contractually obliged under the terms of the PFI agreement to provide all waste materials, whether residual or recyclable to Veolia. We have raised this anomaly with Veolia on a number of occasions, but they are not willing to change their position on this.”

However Greens have criticised Labour for contradictory messages to the public about plastic waste recycling, given that previous statements on the issue talked of ‘working with Veolia’ to address plastic recycling. The comment is the latest in many calls Greens have made for the Private Finance Initiative deal with Veolia to be re-drawn.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty reacted to the FOI, writing in the Materials Recycling World Magazine on 15th March:

“I read with interest the letter from the Labour Council to Government ministers stating that massive waste company Veolia, which holds the local contract for recycling, has rejected calls to renegotiate their waste service to take more plastics. Given Veolia has a giant 25 year, £1bn ‘Private Finance Initiative’ deal, (PFI), it’s hardly a surprise they are in no rush to adapt to meet the city’s recycling needs.

“Labour now needs to come clean about how toxic these PFI deals are, something they’ve been unwilling to tell the public. Presumably they have been reluctant to do this as the waste deal was struck under Labour leadership of the council and like so many PFI deals, under the last Labour government. The reality is that through the complex arrangements of PFI, private companies have been able to hold councils to ransom.

“The letter suggests we are stuck with current recycling issues because Veolia won’t take products that lack an ‘end market’ for recycling. But other local recycling companies in the city, and indeed other councils, collect a greater range of materials than are covered through the Veolia contract. Sheffield Council has recently renegotiated their waste PFI deal, saving council tax payers thousands in the process. 

Councillor Mac Cafferty concluded his comment: “We cannot wait for the Conservative Government to act when their woeful 25-year long environment plan will hardly make a dent in our waste recycling. The Labour Council is in a position to renegotiate existing contracts so they represent better value for the taxpayer and respond to local needs and environmental concerns. It’s high time they did, not least because at a time of massive public sector cuts the millions that have been wasted could have been spent improving public services.”

–Notes for Editors


Excerpt of written question and answer from Full Council 2nd November 2017 (f) Range of Plastics Collected by BHCC for Recycling$$$Minutes.doc.pdf (p22)

34.23 Councillor Littman asked the following question, “Given that recycling rates in the city are so woeful having been below 30% every year for the last 11 years, a time period covered by administrations of all three colours. Can the Chair of ETS please tell us why, as a waste collection authority, the only type of plastics we collect are plastic bottles?”

34.24 Councillor Mitchell replied,

“I am pretty proud to have raised our recycling levels to the highest rate ever from the 24% under your administration to the 29.1% now and we would certainly like to see more types of plastic being able to be collected by the Council for recycling and City Clean officers are actively looking for future solutions to enable this to happen in partnership with East Sussex County Council and Veolia.

However the extent to which different types of plastic can be collected depends on technical, economic and logistical factors. At present the Council can only recycle plastic bottles that are made of a certain type of soft plastic; drinks, water, milk and detergent bottles for example. There is a very good market for this product that provides income with an optimum recovery root meaning it can be processed and recycled many times over.

Currently the Hollingdean material recycling facility is not designed to take plastic pots, tubs and trays. Veolia are assessing the feasibility of retrofitting this facility but this will also need to assess the space required for the additional equipment and the materials. Another key consideration is the need for there to be a sustainable end market for the volume of this material and present indications are that there is a lack of demand from the industry for these recycled materials due to the fierce competition from virgin plastics thanks to low oil prices and recent developments in china that are restricting the input of recycling however we are keeping all options under review.”

34.25 Councillor Littman asked the following supplementary question,

“Councillor Mitchell what work is ongoing in regards to collaboration with other agencies in the city which collects a greater range of matters than we do for example the Magpie Waste Show Operative or the Green Centre and also with other Local Authorities apart from East Sussex to increase the range of plastics we collect even if we are not able to dispose them ourselves?”

34.26 Councillor Mitchell replied, “We do point residents to other waste collection organisations so that they can dispose of a greater range of materials. I am very hopeful that in future we as a Council will be able to expand our range too.

[2] FOI letter MRW_brighton_response_Redacted: as attached

Labour Council’s plastic waste measures don’t go far enough, say Greens

Labour Council’s plastic waste measures don’t go far enough, say Greens

Response to campaign for plastic free city a step in the right direction but slow progress holds city back


Greens have called for stronger action on plastic waste, urging the Labour Council to act swiftly to prevent more plastic pollution. A successful proposal from the Greens in November last year called on the Council to introduce a range of measures to end the use of single-use plastics (SUPs) in Brighton and Hove, including introducing new criteria to ensure events in the city go ‘plastic free.’ [1]

A report coming to Policy, Resources and Growth Committee this week (Thursday, March 29th) details the initial response of the Labour Council but largely includes updates on plans to address single-use plastics waste in council buildings. [2]

Greens called the measures a step in the right direction but have criticised the Labour Council for slow progress on the issue, arguing that current measures, focused mainly on Council buildings, ‘do not go far enough.’

Convenor of the Green Group of Councillors, Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty commented:

“Measures focused on single-use plastic circulation inside Council buildings are welcome. However more than five months after Greens were successful in calling for a plastic-free city, we are concerned to see the city will wait until at least July before news on a whole range of other crucial proposals, such as preventing single-use plastics from being used at city events and ending the purchase of SUPs in the supply chain. There are plenty of businesses and organisations in our city already leading the way.

“With summer fast approaching, we urgently need decisive action, particularly if we are to curb the use of plastics at events. The recent Brighton Marathon led to complaints about plastic water bottles polluting the sea. Greens are reaching out to organisers of major events like Pride – and urging the Labour Council to go further. We also repeat our call for Labour to do more to tackle the restrictive contract with waste company Veolia that prevents recycling of these items. The city and our environment will pay a huge price for each day that passes without significant progress on Single Use Plastics.” [3]motion plastics


Notes for Editors:

[1] Wording of the Green Group Notice of Motion, passed unanimously in full Council November 2017$

This Council resolves to:

Request that a report be brought to Policy, Resources and Growth Committee on the options for bringing an end to the use of unnecessary Single Use Plastics (SUP) in Brighton and Hove, taking account of the following measures to:

  1. a) enable Brighton and Hove City Council to become a full signatory of the ‘Plastic Free Pledge’, by phasing out the use of unnecessary SUPs in all City Council buildings, and working with commissioning partners to end the purchase and procurement of SUPs through the BHCC supply chain;
  2. b) encourage the city’s businesses, organisations and residents to go ‘plastic free,’ working with best practice partners in the city to explore the creation of a ‘plastic free network,’ that could provide business support, practical guidelines and advice to help local businesses transition from SUPs to sustainable alternatives; 
  3. c) to incentivise traders on Council land to sell re-usable containers and invite customers to bring their own, with the aim of phasing  out SUPs; including investigating the possibility of requiring food and drink vendors to avoid SUPs as a condition of their event permission, strengthening the existing Sustainable Event Commitment Form and guidance circulated to exhibitors and traders

[2] Policy, Resources and Growth Committee report 29th March 2018: ‘Phasing Out Single Use Plastics.’$$ADocPackPublic.pdf

[3] Unnecessary (i.e. excluding medical items) Single-Use Plastics (SUP) used once before disposal e.g. bottles, cups and straws, are not widely recycled. Studies from Columbia University show SUPs can take up to 600 years to degrade, breaking into fragments that cause damage to the environment and permeate the food chain. Recent studies found that 72% of U.K tap water samples were contaminated with plastic fibres, and a third of all fish caught off the British coast contained plastic.

Don’t forget the homeless, say Greens as council-run night shelter closes

Grn Cllrs with petitioner John Hadman homeless buildings

Green Councillors with local petitioner John Hadman calling for empty buildings to become homeless shelters

Greens call for good work on night shelter to continue year-round

Green Party Councillors in Brighton and Hove are calling for year round support to end rough sleeping as the Brighton Centre Night Shelter closes its doors.

Last January Green Councillors successfully called on the council to use its empty buildings to accommodate rough sleepers. The temporary shelter, which has supported 102 people since opening in December last year was a direct result of that call.

A recent public petition signed by over 5,000 people calling for 365 day provision for rough sleepers gained backing from all parties. However Green Councillors have raised concerns that news on longer term provision for rough sleepers has fallen quiet. Along with the decision of the Council to continue funding for homeless provision from April, Green Councillors are calling for the Council to act with greater urgency to end rough sleeping and to put plans in place for a year-round resource.

Green Party Housing Spokesperson David Gibson commented:

“Almost a year after the original proposal from the Greens to open up empty buildings for use as shelters, we heard from the manager of the Brighton Centre shelter at the weekend that ‘it is possible that we have saved lives this winter.’

“For 36 local people, the shelter was a first step towards permanent accommodation and in four cases, recovery. It is great to hear that in such a short time the shelter achieved so much, and a credit to all those working and volunteering to provide services to end homelessness. However, with the doors closing, what we need now is a clear sense of urgency from the Labour Council to provide similar services on a more permanent basis.

“We demand more action to end the city’s housing scandal. Green budget proposals that focused on ending rough sleeping, such as expanding Housing First and setting up Council-run emergency accommodation were voted against by the other two parties.

We are pleased to hear that the night shelter helped so many off the streets, but it took the Council almost a year to get even this provisional shelter in place and then it was forced to move buildings twice. Work needs to start now on setting up a long-term facility that helps rough sleepers move on to supported accommodation and we must do this in time for when the budget becomes available in April.

With homelessness rising and affordable housing out of reach, the most vulnerable in our city should not have to wait any longer for more permanent provision. The housing scandal is a crisis and it needs to be treated as one.”

Vacant buildings homeless shelters passed tweet

Proposals from the Greens calling on the council to make vacant buildings available for use as homeless shelters


Rough sleeping has doubled in the past two years. Council figures show that rough sleepers can wait an average of 12 weeks before some form of accommodation is provided. The official estimate for this winter is confirmed as 178 rough sleepers in Brighton & Hove, a rise of around 20 per cent from last year’s figure of 144.

Does local Government work for women? Three steps forward for a healthier democracy #PressforProgress


Councillor Alex Phillips

This International Women’s Day will be my first as a mother. I have been a councillor for almost a decade but this year I have a newborn in tow too. I am neither disabled nor BAME and so have never experienced the inherent discrimination that women councillors pertaining to those two groups face, but I have found the last four months since my baby was born – and even prior to that whilst pregnant – a real challenge.

The Fawcett Society report published last year ‘Does Local Government Work for Women?’ is extremely comprehensive and timely. It not only covers women’s lack of representation, especially at the top of town halls, but also covers sexism and how these issues are compounded for women of colour and those with disabilities. This has been collated in time for this year of women, the centenary – 100 years since some women – mainly white, older and rich women – got the vote.

Photo credit Simon Dack

Cllr Alex Phillips and baby with partner Cllr Tom Druitt. Photo credit Simon Dack

From my point of view however, I have experienced a real lack of understanding from mainly – but not exclusively – male councillor colleagues as well as some officers about just how difficult being a councillor is today when combined with pregnancy and caring responsibilities. There are a plethora of actions that need to be taken by both councils and political parties to ensure equal representation.  Here I focus on just three areas which I think will make a huge difference.

1. There needs to be parental leave for councillors as standard across every council. At the moment councillors still have access to their allowance, which is positive – however without a formal parental leave in place, there is still the expectation that pregnant councillors as well as new mums and dads should carry on with their councillor work as before. This not only creates additional stress but is also unrealistic and dangerous. I was responding to council emails whilst still in hospital the day that my baby was born. I attended my first council meeting with my baby just thirteen days later.

2. The full cost of childcare for council meetings should be paid in full and directly by the council. At the moment, at least in Brighton and Hove, a proportion of childcare costs during council meetings (£7.65 per hour) is reimbursed and then capped at £1500 maximum spend per year per councillor. This is problematic because it doesn’t cover the actual hourly rate charged, which for evenings and for babies is more like £11 per hour. On top of this, councillors are having to front the costs themselves and can in some cases wait for well over a month to be reimbursed. With several council meetings each week covering training, working groups and more formal committee meetings, the actual childcare cost each week could easily run into hundreds of pounds. If we are ever to break down barriers of participation in public life, the full cost of this must be covered directly by the council and with no annual cap.

3. Ensuring meetings are at a range of times and not just in the afternoons and evenings; and making them accessible remotely by using technology to ‘dial in’ to meetings and even to vote from home. Harnessing technology in this way would remove barriers to attendance that are particularly prevalent for women with caring responsibilities, or those with accessibility needs.

Women make up just 33% of all Councillors in England. As we mark International Women’s Day and 100 years of Women’s Suffrage we must celebrate the achievements of women but also reflect on barriers to inclusion across our society. There is much to be done. Although often overlooked, in local government changes that enable greater participation in political life at the town hall level are essential. They will make a huge difference not only to representation – but also to the health of our democracy.

Alex Phillips is a Green Party Councillor in Regency ward, Brighton and Hove

Read the Green Party’s ‘Gender Equality Manifesto’ here. #PressforProgress