One in five recycling trucks contaminated after Blue Planet effect
PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:45 15 December 2018
One in every five recycling trucks in Norfolk is contaminated as people are putting the "wrong things" in their bins, councils have warned.
It comes as the recycling rate across the region dropped last year, with just one council meeting national government targets of 50pc of household waste.
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series last year brought the devastation being wrought by plastic pollution to a global audience.
But John Fisher, chair of the Norfolk Waste Partnership, said while people are now recycling more, they can risk contaminating entire bales if they include the wrong materials.
“Since Blue Planet, some people have thought they have to recycle everything,” he said. “The programme raised awareness and has done in one programme what we have been trying to do for 10 years.
“What we are finding is since Blue Planet people are recycling more and more, but they are starting to recycle the wrong things.”
Figures released by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs this week shows household waste recycling rates fell last year in Norfolk and Waveney to 42pc.
It was driven by a decline in Waveney, where a 52pc rate was being achieved in 2014-15, but has now fallen by a fifth to 40pc.
Mr Fisher said the government has promised a new recycling strategy by the new year.
“We understand they are going to be looking at making producers take more responsibility,” he said. “In Norfolk there is no difference between the councils other than the fact some will recycle food waste and others do not.”
He added all recycling in Norfolk goes to the Costessey Materials Recycling Facility (MRF), allowing consistency across all councils.
Barry Brandford, waste and recycling manager and officer for the Costessey MRF contract, said contamination of recycling has become a real problem.
“Every fifth dust cart going into the MRF might as well be full of rubbish,” he said.
“That - at great cost - is removed from the recycling stream and will be sent primarily to be made into cement. It replaces the coal element in the manufacturing process of cement, and ends up in a Lincolnshire cement kiln.
“We remove as much that has value as we can, even though that is expensive and we do not want it in there.
“20pc of what we collect is paper and keeping the plastics out of the paper line is really important, because we sell the paper.
“All our paper at the moment is staying in the UK for processing - we do not send paper or plastic off to the Far East, so we know what is happening to it.”
In Norwich, the rate of recycling has remained static at 38pc for three years, but is expected to rise after a food caddy drive last summer.
Around 4,000 new caddies were issued in the city, increasing the take-up rate by 40pc.
Kevin Maguire, city council cabinet member with responsibility for recycling,said they are “passionate about increasing recycling rates”.
“In addition to our fortnightly mixed recycling collection for households, we also collect textiles, batteries and small electricals for recycling and reuse,” he said.
“Our residents can also take advantage of our kerbside food recycling scheme which, thanks to a recent drive, resulted in a 42 per cent increase in food waste collected.”
Recycling rates in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk are nudging towards the 50pc target, with 46pc of household waste recycled last year.
Ian Deveraux, cabinet member for environment, said there needs to be a focus on education.
“Really we need to focus on getting into those areas where the recycling performance isn’t as good,” he said.
“In King’s Lynn we had an issue that recycling performance was falling due to contamination. If bins are contaminated we can’t accept that through the recycling facility. The policy is to move that material out of the way, which reduces the total tonnage of potential recyclable material.
“We were even finding needles and medical waste in some of the bags which means we are hazarding some of the operating staff.
“We have put a lot of effort in to reduce the amount of residual non-recyclable material.
“One of the issues is that there isn’t a trade waste system that will accept recycling.
“That goes back to the supermarkets, and education is the key thing.
“This is about behavioural change.”
Lowest recycling rate in Great Yarmouth
With the lowest rate of household recycling in the region, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said it was due to garden waste collections.
Carl Smith, chairman of the environment committee, said: “Great Yarmouth’s recycling rate for dry items of 23pc – the items people put into their recycling wheelie bins – is in line with that of other Norfolk areas.
“However, its overall recycling rate remains lower because kerbside collection of garden waste was introduced in the borough later than other areas and is still being grown in terms of numbers of members. The overall recycling rate has grown compared to 2014/15.
“The council continues to work closely with council’s across Norfolk, through the Norfolk Waste Partnership, to take a county-wide approach to encouraging recycling. In addition, council officers have door-knocked every home outside of urban Yarmouth – some 35,000 properties – to offer recycling advice and promote the council’s garden waste collection scheme.”
Recycling falling in Waveney
In Waveney, the household recycling rate has fallen by more than a fifth in the last four years.
From a high of 52pc in 2014-15, it now stands at 40pc, which the council says is down to reduced garden waste collections.
Graham Catchpole, cabinet member for operational partnerships at Waveney District Council said: “Recycling rates are affected by both national and county-wide trends. Locally, the introduction of our garden waste scheme has removed some of the organic waste from the system as more people choose to compost at home. Additionally, the extreme cold weather in March saw a reduction in garden waste collections with less than half of the usual average amount collected.
“Overall waste collected in Suffolk has reduced, which is a positive step, and levels of residual waste have increased only slightly per household. This is mostly due to a more stringent vetting process at the Materials Recycling Facility which rejects non-recyclable waste and results in higher quality recyclable material being produced.
“We remain committed to ensuring our communities recycle as much and as often as possible and as a member of the Suffolk Waste Partnership, we support county-wide campaigns to encourage recycling.”
Christmas “scrunch test”
Residents in Norfolk are being encouraged to use the “scrunch test” to see whether their Christmas wrapping paper can be recycled this festive season.
The campaign aims to help people get the right thing in the right bin this Christmas once presents have been opened.
People are being asked to scrunch wrapping paper in their hand and if it stays in a ball, it can be recycled. But if it bounces back or contains glitter or too much sticky tape, it needs to go in the rubbish bin.
John Fisher, chair of the Norfolk Waste Partnership, said: “This is to raise awareness of what to recycle at Christmas.
“The scrunch test is a really simple way of getting people to know what wrapping paper to recycle and what not to recycle.
“The plastic based stuff can’t be recycled and the machinery can’t pick it out, so it goes through and contaminates the whole one tonne bale.”