Conservatives are calling for a full investigation into how Milton Keynes Council recycling bags came to be found in a jungle on the other side of the world.
The shock discovery of council sacks and packaging from M&S, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Waitrose, was made by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who was filming in Malaysia for a BBC documentary to be aired later this month.
Now the council’s Tory opposition is planning to pounce on the issue at tomorrow’s (Tuesday) meeting of the council’s Labour cabinet.
But Labour says the Tories are behind the curve on the matter as the ruling group is already asking for more reassurances.
Conservative group leader, Cllr Alex Walker, said: “We are calling for a full investigation into how our recycling sacks ended up in a Malaysian jungle. Simply saying it wasn’t us is not enough from the council.
“We have a responsibility to find out how this happened and ensure it never happens again. The council needs to take responsibility for its supply chains and strengthen its policies.
“This is yet another example of our broken recycling system in MK. Labour have destroyed our reputation and have set us back years. We all want to be a leading green city but if we can’t get the basics right we will never play a serious role in saving the planet.”
Council leader, Labour’s Cllr Pete Marland said he found the reports highlighting how plastic waste is treated “shocking” and is something that “we have been concerned about for some time.”
He added: “I would like to reassure the public that no unprocessed MK Council recycling plastic waste is taken abroad.”
He added though that a “small amount of low value plastics are currently traded to Taiwan, but only after processing.”
He said Labour commissioned a report in March 2018 over concerns about what happens to MK’s plastic waste, which stated no unprocessed plastics were shipped overseas.
Cllr Marland said: “All household materials collected for recycling in MK are taken to the Materials Recycling Facility in Wolverton opened and sorted. All black sack waste is taken to the Residual Waste Facility opened, sorted for recycling and any residual waste is incinerated to produce energy.”
Cllr Marland said the council has “already asked all our suppliers to undertake a further audit of their supply chains to ensure that the information they have given us is robust and correct.” They’ve also asked the BBC for more information from the documentary, which is due to be aired on June 10.
The question of just how MK Council recycling sacks came to be in a 20ft rubbish mountain in Malaysia remains to be resolved. But Cllr Marland believes that “the most likely cause” is the misuse of the clear sacks.
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 them online.
And Cllr Marland blasted back at the Tories, saying: “Cllr Walker and the MK Conservatives are behind the curve on this matter and their concern is opportunistic and shallow.
“Only last month they were campaigning to re-introduce the free-for-all recycling sack distribution system that was a major cause of this problem.
“The Labour administration has already taken steps to ensure our waste is dealt with properly, that the information we’ve been given is robust and that the supply chains of our contractors are properly managed.”