Surge in bottle recycling figures in Northumberland sparks booze fears

A rise in glass recycling has sparked fears of a surge in drinking in Northumberland during the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday, 30th August 2021, 9:53 pm
The total amount of glass recycled in Northumberland from April 2020 to March 2021 rose by almost 22% over the previous 12 months. Picture: Allan Hutchings

Figures from Northumberland County Council have revealed the amount of bottles and jars processed soared by more than a fifth during 2020/21.

And it has prompted campaigners to warn about the potential health problems successive lockdowns and other Covid restrictions may be storing up for the NHS.

Sue Taylor, head of alcohol policy at Balance North East, a regional public health initiative, said: “We know that there has been an increase in ‘risky’ drinking during the pandemic and the rise in recycled glass is further proof of this.

“Even before Covid, the North East suffered disproportionately from alcohol harms and the challenges over the last year have worsened the situation, with alcohol-specific deaths reaching record levels.

“We need action now and call on the government to introduce a comprehensive and evidence-based national alcohol strategy which tackles the price, promotion and availability of alcohol and which would help to turn the rising tide of alcohol harm.”

Figures on domestic glass collections were revealed as part of a report updating the county council’s Communities and Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee on a kerbside pick-up trial for 1,000 households in Morpeth, Bedlington, Hexham, Alnwick and Lesbury.

Currently, most eco-conscious households have to take glass waste to tips or one of more than 170 smaller recycling sites throughout the county for it to be recycled.

According to a report for the panel: “Covid-19 and the lockdown restrictions have significantly affected people’s lifestyles, patterns of consumption and recycling behaviours, making it very difficult to distinguish what impact the kerbside glass pilot has had on overall glass recycling levels.

“The total amount of glass recycled in the county during April 2020 to March 2021 rose by almost 22% over the previous 12 months, due to the effects of lockdown and an increase in consumption of beverages at home.”

It added the ‘overall tonnage’ of glass collected at tips had fallen by 604 tonnes during 2020/21, but conceded numbers may have been skewed by the closure of recycling facilities during the pandemic lockdowns.

Figures from Public Health England have suggested the number of people consuming alcohol at ‘dependent drinking’ levels had surged from 1.5million to 2million during the third coronavirus lockdown.