It’s time to recycle the great green crusade

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For the thousands of us who are evangelical about recycling, today’s news comes as a depressing shock.

There we are carefully sorting our household waste, recycling every last plastic bottle and copy of The News, only to discover fewer of us can be bothered.

At best, recycling rates in this region have flatlined. In most council areas they have fallen.

It has been clear for some years the bottom has fallen out of the recycling bin, way off the halcyon days of 2008 when turning your waste into something useful again was the peak of chic.

That year marked the start of the economic global meltdown when all players in the recycling world were able to make a profit. That’s not the case any more.

With concerns about climate change mounting, it is an awkward time for the recycling industry to be under such pressure.

Few would doubt the environmental merits of recycling. Yet recycling is a commodities business. The paper, metal, plastic and glass that recyclers collect, sort and sell, compete against so-called virgin materials. And right now, many commodities are cheap.

Abundant oil is the latest headache for recyclers. New plastics are made from the byproducts of oil and gas production.

So as plentiful fossil fuels saturate global markets, it has become cheaper for the makers of water bottles, yoghurt pots and takeaway boxes to simply buy new plastics.

This, in turn, is dragging down the price of recycled materials, straining every part of the recycling industry.

And with that financial crash came swingeing cuts to town hall budgets.

Long gone are the costly advertising campaigns aimed at persuading us to recycle more, even if it meant a confusing array of containers in which to do it.

But as we report today, Southampton has made an impressive increase in its recycling rate by joining forces with other agencies.

That might be the way forward for Portsmouth and its neighbouring authorities – a move which would be for the good of us all, regardless of global economics.