Do people need classes to get their rubbish right?

Written by: Mark Hall | Published:
A weight-based recycling target for plastic is to blame for the misguided push to collect all types ...

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Whole lorries full of domestic waste are being sent to landfill instead of going for recycling because people are just not separating their rubbish, says spokesperson Mark Hall.

This is particularly case where a round has a large proportion of communal bins where the actions of just a few recycling refuseniks can spoil an entire housing estate's recycling efforts, a national waste and recycling company says.

The only solution could be lessons in domestic recycling funded in partnership between local authorities and the major waste companies in order to get the message across.

The truth of the matter is that only around 45% of domestic refuse goes to recycling these days, and one of the major reasons that we've failed to get this figure higher is that people still don't know how to recycle.

And worse than that – there's people who just don't care.

We are already well aware that there is resistance to recycling from certain sections of society who are convinced – quite wrongly – that climate change and challenges to natural resources are a "con", and that there's no need to change lifestyles.

It doesn't help when we have politicians who say we can ignore the opinions of experts, because this is one thing where all the world's experts agree.

Getting the message across

But it's areas where the message hasn't got through that practical lessons in recycling can help.

One recent example where there's been such a call is in the Berkshire town of Reading, where some domestic waste collections are so contaminated with the wrong kind of refuse that there is no option but to send the entire load to the town's already straining landfill sites.

In one estate in the town, communal recycling bins are left overflowing with general waste, and there's also a problem with vermin, the Get Reading news website reports. The situation has got so bad, some residents are calling for lessons from their council to show their neighbours how to use the bins.

It's a call that supports, because it means that the end result could be an end to people's time and effort being wasted, and an increase in local recycling rates.

Who's going to pay?

Of course, there's the problem of funding. And that's where partnerships between councils and the major waste service providers could work wonders.

It's in everybody's interest to get this off the ground.

And, of course, there are savings to be made by not sending whole lorries full of waste to landfill, burying rubbish in the ground is an expensive business, and half-hearted council campaigns tend to fail miserably.

As Reading resident Mark Williams told Get Reading, "It's the same on a local level where clean-up costs are more expensive that teaching people to get it right in the first place. It will cost them more when they have to get it cleared up. The rats will come back so it's an ongoing problem."

From leaflet campaigns to door-knocking and practical demonstrations, a multi-pronged approach could really bring forth results, .

And where the adults won't listen, we can take the message into schools. Children and young people have traditionally been the standard bearers when it comes to changing adult habits on recycling.

After all, they're the generation that's going to have to clear up this mess we're in.

With millions of British people getting their recycling spot-on week-in, week-out. It's a shame that there are a few who simply don't get it right and wreck everybody's efforts.

It's these people we have to reach. The message is everything.

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A weight-based recycling target for plastic is to blame for the misguided push to collect all types of plastics in the domestic collection system. A few experienced plastics reprocessors like ourselves had tried to suggest that a simple 'plastic bottles only' message for domestic collection would have been a more sensible approach. But instead the green obsession with recycling everything has just meant that we have turned the recycling bin into a second rubbish bin to the detriment of all materials recycling. We should stick to what can be reprocessed economically and has an end market, rather than chasing unrealistic targets. EfW definitely has its place, it is time we acknowledged that by trying to recycle everything we are actually making it much harder to recycle what we used to be able to recycle effectively.

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I have followed the progress of the industry for decades and thought I had a clear idea of what could be recycled until I read the latest advice from WRAP. In particular I was staggered to read that black containers and all plastic film should be kept out of the recycling bin. Also the variety of polymers is now so great that I can hardly tell them apart. No wonder the general population is totally confused and unwilling to co-operate!! I am also perplexed that you do not address the problem of rejected waste. Here in Staffordshire and the rest of the midlands we are having a plague of fly-tipping on an industrial scale together with frequent fires in licensed and unlicensed premises. I begin to fear that EFW incineration is the best answer.

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