Jungle recycling bags independent report ‘supports Milton Keynes Council’s view’ – Cabinet member

MK Council's waste strategy
MK Council's waste strategy

A draft technical report into how recycling sacks were found in a Malaysian jungle has found that the council’s own systems were not to blame, says the Cabinet member responsible.

Milton Keynes Council called for an independent review of its recycling systems after TV personality Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall found some MK pink recycling sacks in a mountain of rubbish while filming for a BBC documentary called War on Plastic.

Now a draft report has been completed and the findings have been seen by Cllr Emily Darlington (Lab, Bletchley East), the council’s Cabinet member for public realm. The full report won’t be ready for some time yet though.

Cllr Darlington told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the BBC had not provided any more information to the council about the jungle discovery. So the independent consultants tasked with the review proceeded in that light.

Cllr Darlington said: “I am impressed by the level of technical detail in the review. It confirms what our officers thought, that the recycling sacks could not have come from the council’s system.”

She said it looked deep into the council’s supply chain and into how the Environment Agency enforces its rules.

At the time of the documentary the council insisted that the “most likely cause” is the misuse of the pink recycling sacks. The council insisted that all the sacks taken to its recycling facilities are ripped up, meaning that any whole ones found in Malaysia must have come from other sources.

Until recently the council used to issue more than half a million sacks a year, with only about one third of them actually being used for household recycling. The council has moved to a system where residents have to order the now clear recycling sacks online.

Cllr Darlington said that a full report would be presented to the council later in the year. She said it could also make recommendations about any ways that council systems could be improved.

The council is gearing up to issue new waste contracts from 2023 and Cllr Darlington said information from the review could be used to inform that process.

One of the possibilities that the council is looking at is the possibility of introducing wheelie bins so that it can stop using black rubbish sacks for non-recyclable waste.