[FEATURE] A fifth of Irish residents (18%) are unsure of how to recycle their Easter packaging waste correctly. That’s according to a new consumer survey of Ireland’s recycling and contamination behaviour, conducted by Repak. Here, we look into the findings…
Irish residents consume an estimated 17.5m chocolate eggs at Easter. As consumption figures increase, so too will the amount of packaging waste that is generated. The findings from the latest Repak research have revealed how important it is to not only recycle, but to do so correctly, over the Easter period.
To Recycle… Or Not To Recycle?
While 82% know what Easter packaging can be put into their recycling bin, only 44% planned to recycle all the packaging waste that they will generate over the weekend. 16% cited that they will not recycle the plastic materials that will accompany their Easter packaging waste.
Over the last twenty years, Ireland has gone from being one of Europe’s lowest performers to the highest for packaging recycling. Despite this, approximately 87,000 tonnes of non-recyclable material end up in the recyclable bin every year.
While these findings show that the nation’s knowledge of how to recycle is high, there remains a significant proportion who are not recycling and are not actively considering the effects that failing to recycle properly has on the environment.
Repak has some top tips for Irish residents to ensure they don’t mess it up when it comes to recycling this Easter:
- only place rigid plastic, cardboard and paper, food cans and aluminium cans in the recycling bin
- soft plastic is currently not widely accepted in the recycling bin and should be placed in the black bin
- these should be clean, dry and loose with any food residue or liquids removed
- all glass should be brought to one of the 1,838 Repak-funded bring bank sites around the country and never placed in the household recycling bin
- never put nappies, broken toys, food, grass cuttings or anything else unrecyclable into the recycling bin
- if you knowingly contaminate your recycling bin, think of the long-term consequences of those actions and the people who have to pick through your rubbish
- if you know of a neighbour, friend or family member not recycling properly, take the time to educate them on contamination. Their recycling bin could be contaminating yours!
- visit repak.ie for all the information you need to recycle right this Easter, and every week.
Save Our Nation From Contamination!
Recycling bin contamination negatively impacts on the quality of recyclables placed in waste collection systems. When asked to explain what recycling bin contamination is, 58% cited the answer correctly, asserting that contamination is both putting non-recyclable waste as well as dirty and unwashed recyclables in the recycling bin.
However, when it comes to knowing what items contaminate a recycling bin, while 82% believe they know exactly what these are, 9% admitted that they didn’t know and a further 19% said that they were unsure.
Repak has revealed the most common recycling mistakes made by Irish residents:
- two thirds (66%) recycled a greasy pizza box, 31% recycled aerosol cans while 18% have contaminated a recycling bin with glass or broken toys
- a further 5% recycled mouldy food and a further 4% recycled electrical items
- of those that admitted to putting contaminated items into their recycling bin, 15% knew that they would be contaminating by doing so beforehand.
As part of the study, Repak also carried out separate research into the effect that the nation’s contamination behaviour has on Ireland’s recycling waste operators. Recycling waste is dealt with by “pickers” whose jobs it is to sort and separate everything by hand – contamination included.
Thornton’s Recycling has estimated that recycling waste operators nationwide take in 1m nappies every year from recycling bin waste.
The study uncovered other gruesome findings, such as some of the 22 operators surveyed revealing that they had found items such as deceased pets and exotic animals, real handguns and dangerous medical materials in Irish household packaging waste.
The most commonly contaminated items regularly discovered by recycling waste operators are:
Ireland’s top contaminated recycling waste items:
Delving further into the human side of recycling packaging waste, the study revealed that 50% of the recycling operators surveyed believe the public are aware of the items they are contaminating their recycling bins, but continue to contaminate nonetheless, as they do not care.
According to Laura Sherry, marketing and communications manager at Repak: “Ireland has a fantastic track record when it comes to packaging recycling. We have worked together to achieve every recycling target set for us by the European Union for over 20 years. Repak is working with all relevant stakeholders to ensure we continue to do this, however, we need the Irish public’s assistance to adopt best practice recycling behaviours.
“This Easter, we want to raise awareness for the growing issue that is recycling bin contamination. Contaminated packaging waste continues to hugely impact on Ireland’s recycling rates, with up to 40% of recyclable materials being sent for incineration or landfill.
The implications of this are huge – contamination is one of the main reasons cited by China in its decision to no longer accept Ireland’s recycling. Therefore, we’re encouraging people to become aware of the items that can and cannot be placed in their recycling bin as well as learn how contaminating acceptable items can be avoided.”
For more information on Repak, see Repak Recycling on Facebook, and @RepakRecycling on Twitter and Instagram, or visit www.repak.ie.