Contamination of waste – a threat to recycling

About 177 million tonnes of waste are generated in England every year. This is a poor use of resources and causes environmental damage as a lot of waste that gets sent to landfills, especially food and other organic waste, produces methane – one of the most harmful greenhouse gases.

The better separation of recyclable materials at source – the less of it ends up in landfills. However, recycling efforts are often thwarted by waste contamination. Many of the ‘Mixed Recycling’ bins get contaminated with food, textiles, and other materials, which cannot be recycled.

Recyclables get rejected if the recycling companies spot contamination that can spoil the quality of the recycled materials and the sorting machinery. It is very expensive to dispose of as well.

Rejected recycling ends up being general waste – which is exactly what we should strive to avoid!

How to avoid contamination of your recycling:

Keep food out: please don’t put food waste into the dry recycling bins – even small amounts can spoil large quantities of recyclable materials. If your company does not provide you with a separate organic waste bin – ask for it from your building manager. All the food waste put in it gets turned into environmentally friendly fertiliser and leaves dry recycling clean!

Pour liquids out: make sure there is no liquid remaining in the paper cups – always pour out the excess liquid as it spoils the dry recycling.

Wash all containers: most of containers out there are recyclable but they are often contaminated by the remaining food inside. Wash your container before recycling it!

Take out the textiles: about half the material which gets rejected is clothing and bedding; this gets caught up in the sorting machines and is also easily spoiled when mixed with other materials in a bin.

Check the recycling list: If you are not sure what can go into the recycling bin – check the list. If your company does not provide you with a list of what is recyclable and what is not – request it.

Reduce space in the recycling bin: – squash and squeeze all metal cans, plastic bottles, tetra paks etc.

These steps should help with preventing waste contamination and improving the quality of collected recycling materials.

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