Rise In Recycled Materials “Lost” To Contamination

England-Recycling-StalledThe amount of contaminated waste put out for recycling has almost doubled in the past three years, according to figures obtained by the Daily Mail.

The contents of up to one in five recycling bins were turned away by some councils last year because they were contaminated, and a s result were either landfilled or send for recovery.

A Freedom of Information request by the Daily Mail revealed that last year 338,000 tonnes of recycling was rejected for contamination, up 84% from 2012.

Peter Box – “Allowing councils to identify and work with people who misunderstand or make mistakes when sorting their rubbish is important”

Twenty in every 100 bins were turned away in the London boroughs of Newham and Hammersmith and Fulham, the figures showed, while 18 in every 100 were rejected by Manchester City Council.

Contaminated recycling must be sent to landfill, Peter Box, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association told the paper.

He said while some people might make genuine mistakes when it came to their waste, action was needed against those who did so deliberately.

He said: “Allowing councils to identify and work with people who misunderstand or make mistakes when sorting their rubbish is important.

“As a last resort, councils also need effective, proportionate powers to take action against households or businesses which persistently or wilfully damage the local environment.”

He added that the overall amount of waste produced must be reduced.

He said: “Boosting recycling is only addressing half the problem. Retailers, manufacturers and caterers must do more to bring down the waste generated each year.”

Newham Council said it was working to cut down on the amount of recycling “lost because of contamination”.


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  1. Clearly a communications failure as most people don’t know what can and can’t be recycled, nor do they understand about contamination.

    Our patented evrs system copes with non-hazardous co-mingled wastes containing bio-mass, cellulosics and polymers, to recover fine chemicals from which these materials are made.

  2. The fact the recycling is rising with 84% since is good news. But, I also agree that boosting recycling solves half of the problem. Big manufacturers and retailers should take their part of the responsibility.

  3. This has been a continual issue over the years. When looking after a sorting plant I had material so contaminated that no one would accept it so it eventually cost to dispose of. Educating businesses and individuals on providing clean materials for recycling is an uphill struggle. In businesses changes of staff requires retraining and long term staff re-educating with a rolling programme. The public are a harder nut to crack and can only be done through the help of the local authority. I still see heavily contaminated recycling bins round the streets which maddens me still.

  4. There is unfortunately still confusion and disillusion to what is,and how ‘Recycling’ is processed.
    I don’t believe the general public view their ‘waste’ as the valued commodity as we in the industry see it.
    I buy food and drinks now with as much interest in the packaging’s future i.e. HOW can I recycle it?, as to what’s in the packaging.
    Producers, manufacturers, consumers need to be responsible for ‘the path’ of their packaging, as do waste collection contractors and re-processors.
    Cynically speaking ,as consumers we are going through a process of owning the packaging ,then donating it to a reprocessing company.
    The gain for the consumer has been lost in the need for compliance, it has become intangible.
    If we all became Waste collection operatives and MRF workers for a day (As Hugh did on his ‘War on Waste’ programme ) we would soon see the importance of uncontaminated recycling.
    Education (Children and adults alike) and the updating of recycling information to the masses is URGENT.
    Local Authorities and Waste management companies need to run more engagement campaigns
    aiming at ‘Reduction’ and ‘ Sorting’ to teach people, in a far more hands on approach, to appreciate where the packaging that they have brought is ending up.

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