Resource Use

‘Three to five’ dead pets in recycling each week sees Wakefield make contamination plea

Wakefield Council is imploring residents to make sure they know what can and can’t be included in their recycling after revealing that three to five dead pets are thrown out every week in the district’s recycling bins.

The pets, including dogs, puppies, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, chickens and even a bearded dragon, are among a number of unusual items – alongside machetes and ceremonial swords – that the council has highlighted to show that some residents are contaminating the recycling service through a lack of knowledge.

To coincide with the national Recycle Week, which begins today (12 September), the council is now calling on people to check which items can be placed in their recycling bin – so they are aware of what needs to go into the bin, taken to a recycling centre, or disposed of elsewhere.

The West Yorkshire council, which serves around 330,000 residents, introduced a new kerbside recycling system last year, combining its previous two containers for dry recyclables into one co-mingled wheelie bin that is collected fortnightly.

The council accepts recyclables – including steel and aluminium cans, paper and card, glass bottles and jars, and aerosol cans – from residents in a brown wheelie bin, and the materials are sorted at a waste treatment facility operated by Shanks for the council. The council asks residents to put other material into a green household bin, with the website somewhat confusingly explaining: ‘Waste in the green [residual] bin is also recycled and reused.’

Items that the council explicitly asks residents to put in green household bins include recyclable items juice cartons, yogurt pots, plastic food trays, food waste and carrier bags, as well as nappies. In addition to processing the material from recycling bins, the Shanks facility includes onward processing of this waste, with the company explaining it removes the recyclables and creates refuse-derived fuel out of the remaining material.

Though the council indicates that there has been a 10 per cent increase in recycling across the district since the changes, it also says more can be done to increase the quality of recycling, particularly as it has found knives, walking sticks, false teeth, video tapes and old gardening tools in some recycling bins.

Cllr Richard Forster, Wakefield Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Environment and Communities, said: “If the wrong items go to the recycling plant it is not only very unpleasant, there can be a real danger to staff if they come into contact with sharp items. Used medical needles, which should be placed in a medi-box at home, are also turning up at the plant, putting staff at risk.

“There is also a financial cost, as items that shouldn’t be there can get caught up in the machinery. This means the whole recycling plant has to close down. This can result in an additional cost to the council and ultimately to council tax payers – so it’s in everyone’s interest to take a few minutes to understand what is and isn’t suitable for the recycling bin.”

To try and get more people recycling properly, the council’s efforts for Recycle Week include running a #LetsSortItOut social media campaign.

Co-mingled councils leading contamination increase

The week of awareness-raising events – fittingly this year focusing on ‘the unusual suspects’, household items like bleach bottles and deodorant cans that can be recycled but are often forgotten about – comes a few weeks after it was reported that the amount of rejected recycling in England has increased by 84 per cent in the last four years.

According to data from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), 338,000 tonnes of recyclable waste were rejected in 2014/15, a figure that had increased dramatically from 184,000 tonnes in 2011/12 (together with an overall increase in recycling of 300,000 tonnes).

Most cases of rejected material are down to contamination, and the worst performers all operate co-mingled collections, like Wakefield. Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire is the English council with the highest recyclate rejection rate at 14.99 per cent, significantly above the national average of three per cent.

Kirklees Council operates a co-mingled recycling collection where paper, cardboard, plastic, drinks and food cans and aerosols are all collected in the same green bin. Glass is not included.

Greenwich Council in South East London has a 14.4 per cent rejection rate in 2014/15, and Hull City Council one of 14.2 per cent. Both operate similar co-mingled systems.

 Speaking to Resource, Andy Moore, Campaigner for UK Recyclate, said that the “collection system is at fault”, adding: “Systems which collect the recyclable material co-mingled and then attempt to sort it mechanically produce inferior quality materials and reject much more than systems which collect recyclables separately.”

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