Hackney to give microplastics the brush-off with biodegradable bristles

Brush Past: Hackney on the hunt for biodegradable bristles as part of sustainable procurement. Photograph: Wikimedia Commons.

The Town Hall plan to make a switch to biodegradable bristles for their street sweepers in an aim to reduce the environmental impact of microplastics.

The announcement comes as part of Hackney Council’s updated Sustainable Procurement Strategy (SPS), a wide-ranging plan on how the local authority will approach the external purchasing of goods and services.

Whilst the LDRS understands that a replacement product for Hackney is not immediately available, the move represents a wider ambition within the SPS to use demand within the council for sustainable alternatives to “catalyse” the market into providing them.

Cllr Rebecca Rennison (Lab, Kings Park), cabinet member for finance and housing needs, who presented the SPS to a 26 November Hackney Council cabinet meeting, said: “We’re absolutely delighted with the strategy. Officers have done a huge amount of work getting it to where it is.

“This is a long-term piece of work, and includes a whole range of commitments on what we’re doing to ensure that every pound we spend in Hackney Council goes into the local economy and opens more job opportunities within the borough.

“We’ve even got references in here to switching to bristle brushes for our street cleaning activity. We hear a lot of talk about the Preston model – we’re very keen for people to start talking about the Hackney model.”

Preston City Council spent 28 per cent of its budget locally in 2016 in an effort to spark local regeneration.

In this area, one of the commitments under Hackney’s SPS is to assess contracts for services with a view to splitting them into smaller parts to make it easier for small, local businesses to make a bid.

Though the SPS accepts that “some contracts…are better packaged as relatively large contracts,” the Town Hall has further committed to “encouraging” large businesses to sub contract services to local businesses and the voluntary sector.

Cllr Jon Burke (Lab, Woodberry Down), cabinet member for energy, sustainability and community services, said: “The Sustainable Procurement Strategy is a really exciting piece of work, and represents a positive disruptive force in the local authority, in a variety of areas, from the way we procure contracts to the actual items that we’re purchasing.

“Over time we will be gradually removing synthetic brushheads from our streetsweepers, as it’s a contributing factor to microplastic dust.

“One of the things that’s a real challenge at the moment is that there isn’t a product in the market that provides a biodegradable brushhead, but the strategy is a catalyst to the work of engaging with the market – we’re looking for that product.”



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