Recycling efforts in South Kesteven are being undermined by increasing levels of contamination of the weekly silver bin recycling system. Recently released figures reveal that, since 2016, contamination rates have gradually increased from 20% to over 30% meaning that almost a third of so-called ‘recycling’ ends up in landfill.
There are a number of factors causing the contamination including:
- Confusion around what can be recycled under the scheme. For example, most plastic bottles can be recycled via the bins while many other types of plastic packaging cannot.
- Some items can be recycled but not via the scheme, including batteries (take them to Lidl), clothes and shoes (take them to textile bank) and electrical items (take to a scrap merchant).
- Some people use the silver bins carelessly expecting any old household items to be magically recycled including used nappies (Eeurgh!)
- Food waste cannot be recycled and when left in cans or bottles it can contaminate other clean recycling items around them which will then be rejected ‘downstream’ in the recycling process. This can easily be solved by simply rinsing out items before putting them in the silver bin. A small pilot scheme for food waste collection in parts of South Kesteven is also helping to address the issue albeit in a limited way.
- With the exception of some stickers which were put on silver bins last year, our councils do almost no proactive education or awareness raising around recycling. This is a direct result of the higher cost of recycling caused by Conservative’s decision to withdraw County Council recycling credits from community groups and district councils.
Almost everyone who uses the silver recycling bins does so with good intention. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness and clarity around the silver bins has resulted in confusion and contamination which in turn is leading to reduced recycling rates and unnecessary use of landfill and incineration. As councils, communities and individuals, we face an existential crisis from climate change yet we can’t even get to grips with relatively simple issues like waste recycling.