Taking plastics out of the recycling stream, and sending it to be made into fuel, eventually to be burned, would be a ‘backward step’ according to the company which takes the material in Swindon.

Swindon Borough Council is currently consulting the public on whether it should not attempt to recycle plastic but instead ask residents to put it in with ordinary household waste and send it to its Waterside Park plant where it will become industrial fuel.

The council says one reason is that it cannot control where its plastic goes and it fears it’s being landfilled, or worse, in the Far East.

Labour councillors are against the plan. Their leader Councillor Jim Grant, said:

“The Labour Group strongly object to the Council’s proposal to scrap plastics recycling collection. When Swindon already has a terrible recycling rate, we think this decision is a further backward step.

“While other Councils are introducing food waste collection and increasing their recycling rates, Swindon is going to become only the fourth council in the country not to collect plastic recycling. The decision is in complete contrast to what is happening across the country.

“I should imagine when they hear about this policy, local residents will rightly be questioning the point in them putting effort in to recycling when their local council is just going to burn plastic? This proposal sends a terrible message about the value of recycling.

“The reality is that this is just another cost-cutting, austerity measure. But their proposal is misguided and not based on the facts according to the company who actually deals with our plastics recycling. We would urge the Conservative administration to drop this ill-thought, retrograde step.”

And Brendan Carash commodities manger at Thamesdown Recycling, which takes Swindon’s collected plastic said it wasn’t the case that it was being sent to landfill in the Far East.

He said:"We are paid to take the material from Swindon, and we sell it to a company in the UK. We are paid between $100-200 for a 25 tonne box, and are paid for the material.

“There is full traceability, from here it is sent to Taipei. There is plenty of value in plastics, milk bottles make about £500 a tonne and other bottles perhaps £300 a tonne.

“Sending it to become fuel seems an easy option, and a backward step.”

The new cabinet member responsible for the environment at Euclid Street, Coun Maureen Penny said: "Since putting out our proposals as part of the engagement we are running on how we manage Swindon’s waste in the future we have had a wide range of responses. Cabinet will consider all feedback before a decision is made in December on the council’s approach.

“In July this year, the National Audit Office reported that UK government has low visibility and control over waste that is sent abroad for recycling and there is therefore a risk that some of it is not recycled under equivalent standards to the UK, and is instead sent to landfill or contributes to pollution.

“These concerns were compounded by China’s ban since January on importing low-grade plastic waste, forcing waste companies and local councils to find alternative countries that will accept this waste for recycling. Since then, waste plastic from Swindon has at various times been exported to Malaysia, Vietnam and, more recently Turkey, reflecting the volatility in global plastic recycling markets.

“Until there is greater stability and confidence in these markets, one option we are proposing is to temporarily suspend collecting plastics for recycling and instead process this material in our existing solid recovery fuel plant into an alternative fuel used by industry across Europe, displacing fossil fuels.

“Suspending the collection service would also save taxpayers’ money at a time when there is uncertainty around how far it is contributing to the environmental outcomes we all want to see.”