A senior consultant at Eunomia, the research and consulting firm, has forced the Daily Mail newspaper, the Daily Telegraph and Daily Express to retract articles on recycling.
Peter Jones wrote to the Press Complaints Commission after he realised the Daily Mail’s negative attitude to recycling.
His first complaint was about an article which reported: 12 million tonnes of household recycling are being dumped in foreign landfill sites.
The Mail, he says, has now conceded this is inaccurate.
The second complaint concerned the Daily Mail’s coverage of Lord de Mauley’s comments regarding the requirement under the Waste Framework Directive for various recycling streams to be collected separately.
The Mail reported this meant householders would need at least five bins, one for residual waste and one for each recycling stream. Further, it said weekly residual waste collections had to stop.
The story was picked up by the Daily Telegraph (which corrected the offending article quite quickly) and the Daily Express which, Jones says, was not a member of the PCC and when approached directly decided not to print a correction.
However, Jones reports, the Daily Mail has agreed its interpretation of the law was wrong.
The problem, for Jones and for waste experts across the country, was the initial inaccurate article in the Daily Mail was widely read and passed on to thousands on social media. In fact, it attracted more than 600 comments.
Jones insists the Mail’s story misinterpreted key pieces of information.
First, the reporter had read Defra’s draft recycling Quality Action Plan which quoted findings about reprocessor attitudes from WRAP’s MRF Output Materials Quality Thresholds and Defra’s consultation on amendments to the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations and realised that some recycling is sent overseas and then extrapolated the information wrongly. Jones says tracing the elements of this story took a great amount of time.
By contrast, the “five bins” article mistake was pretty straightforward.
The good news is that following the mis-reporting, Jones agrees, in February, there was an enthusiastic profile in the Daily Mail Money section of Veolia’s Estelle Bracfhlianoff who was quoted as saying: “I can testify, though, that contrary to a very commonly-held view, everything that you put in a recycling bin is actually recycled. I was surprised how many people, my own neighbours included, think it isn’t”.
“But it has value, we turn it into useful things. So it’s good for the planet and good for your wallet. We have not explained that as much as we should.”
Jones adds the complaints process: “has been a bit of a test of patience”.
In all Jones sent some 17 letters and received 21 letters in reply. It took him almost a year to resolve the mistakes.