Recycle Contamination in Recycling

When it comes to contamination, there are several ways in which items can spoil a load of recycling. It’s not just about putting the wrong thing in the wrong bin, contamination also occurs when unclean objects are mixed with clean recycling.

It’s a messy issue, not to mention time-consuming and costly. Last year, 5,500 tonnes of material had to be disposed of, at a cost of just under half a million pounds, due to incorrect and dirty items being dumped in Leicestershire’s recycling bins.

Whilst Leicestershire’s residents currently recycle around 45% of what they throw away, an increasing amount of incorrect items are still being put into recycling bins, which is preventing lorry loads of good material from being recycled.

Leicestershire’s key contaminants

There are a number of contaminants that have to be removed from Leicestershire’s recycling each week, but used nappies, food waste and textiles are the most common, all of which should never be disposed of in your recycling bin. And here’s why…

Dirty Nappies

Used nappies crop up more than you might think, with up to 4000 having to be removed from Leicestershire’s recycling each day – that’s more than 300 every hour! Not only are they non-recyclable, dirty nappies can spoil any other material they come into contact with. They also have to be removed by hand once they reach the sorting facility, which is both unpleasant and unhygienic for the person doing the picking.

Nappies should always be thrown out with your general waste and never disposed of in your recycling wheelie bin.

Food waste

One of the main contaminants that comes through Leicestershire’s recycling stream, is packaging that still contains food and drink residue. This includes items like dirty margarine tubs, half-eaten pots of yogurt, and liquid left in drinks bottles. And once these items are in your bin, the damage is done. They then run the risk of soiling other materials, like paper and card which cannot be cleaned.

So, please remember to empty and rinse your pots, tubs, jars, trays and bottles, and leaving them to dry before placing them in your recycling bin. Clean recycling is key to improving the quality and quantity of material we recycle.

Textiles

Your recycling bin isn’t the place for clothes and other textiles. Whilst they can be reused, they’re not accepted as part of your kerbside recycling. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, they can become wrapped around the sorting facility equipment, causing extensive and costly damage. Secondly, during mixed recycling collections, textiles come into contact with all sorts of contamination, including unidentifiable liquids and broken glass, which is impossible to remove.

We’d recommend selling them, donating them or dropping them off at a charity shop, clothing bank or your nearest Recycling and Household Waste Site. Your local council may also provide a separate clothing collection, so make sure to check with them.

What can residents do to help?

As a county resident, it is your responsibility to make sure that the right things are going in the right bins. We know it can be confusing, so we’ve put together our top tips to help you get the most out of your recycling:

  • Recycling should be clean and dry, so make sure to empty food and drink containers, give them a quick rinse and then leave to drain before recycling.
  • Remember to put lids back on to jars and bottles before popping them in your recycling bin.
  • Don’t forget to recycle items from all rooms in the house – cleaning product bottles, toilet roll tubes and kitchen foil included.

If in doubt, check before you chuck. If you’re unsure what you can and can’t recycle, take a look at our list of items that are accepted as part of your kerbside recycling – you can view it here.

 

FAQs

Please click on ‘Read More’ below to see a list of frequently asked questions.

Read More

What can I put in my recycling bin?

You can find a full list of what you can put into your kerbside recycling by clicking here https://www.lesswaste.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Items-accepted-for-recycling-at-Casepak-1.pdf

Where does my recycling go?

All of the recyclable materials collected from your kerbside bin are currently sent to and sorted at Casepak, a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in Leicester.

The exception is North West Leicestershire District Council, which works a little differently – if you’re a North West Leicestershire resident, you can check what happens to your recycling here. https://www.nwleics.gov.uk/pages/recycling_containers

What happens if I put the wrong things in my recycling bin?

If you put the wrong items in your recycling bin, they will be sent for disposal and will not be recycled. Sometimes things like nappies and food waste could actually spoil the rest of the recyclables and mean a whole load may need to be disposed of.

The label on the packaging says it’s recyclable. Why can’t I recycle it in my recycling bin?

Recycling symbols are printed on packaging by the manufacturer. These show that the material could possibly be recycled but only if there are suitable local facilities to process the material.

To find out what we are able to collect in Leicestershire’s kerbside recycling bin, please click here www.lesswaste.org.uk/recycle/items-accepted-for-recycling-at-casepak/

Does all the recycling just get sent to landfill?

No, all materials are sent to appropriately licensed facilities. Any contaminated material will be sent to energy recovery as refuse derived fuel (RDF). Further information about what happens to your kerbside recycling can be found here www.lesswaste.org.uk/recycle/what-happens-to-your-kerbside-recycling/

What are most common items found in the kerbside recycling that shouldn’t be there?

The most common contaminants found in the recycling bin are nappies, food and textiles.

Nappies, both used and unused, should never be placed in your recycling bin. They can spoil any other material they come into contact with. They also have to be removed by hand once they reach the sorting facility. Please put them in your general waste bin.

Food waste found in packaging that still contains food and drink residue should be emptied, rinsed and dried before being placed into your recycling bin. Dirty packaging runs the risk of soiling other materials, like paper and card which cannot be cleaned.

Textiles should be left out of your kerbside recycling bin. They can become wrapped around the sorting facility equipment, causing extensive and costly damage. They can also come into contact with all sorts of contamination, including unidentifiable liquids and broken glass, which is impossible to remove and mean that they cannot be reused or recycled and have to be sent for disposal.

We’d recommend selling them, donating them or dropping them off at a charity shop, clothing bank or your nearest Recycling and Household Waste Site. Your local council may also provide a separate clothing collection, so make sure to check with them.

How clean does my recycling need to be?

Any items placed in the kerbside recycling bin need to be rinsed and dried. This prevents contamination of other materials. Any residue left inside items could potentially leak out and contaminate paper and card making it unsuitable for recycling. Please see the following link on how to present your recycling www.lesswaste.org.uk/recycle/items-accepted-for-recycling-at-casepak/

Should I put my recycling in a carrier bag/bin bag?

No, items in your recycling bin should be kept loose. This helps with the sorting process. Any items tied up in carrier bags could potentially be removed and end up not being recycled.

Do labels need to be removed from items like tins or bottles before they are recycled?

No, labels can be left on bottles and jars and do not need to be removed.

Do I need to keep lids on bottles and jars?

Where possible it’s best to keep lids on bottles and jars. This helps to capture them during the sorting process, especially when it comes to smaller lids.

I’d like to know more about recycling, can I / my community group / school attend an information session or have a talk?

We offer a range of talks to both schools and community groups on waste prevention, recycling and composting. If you would like to find out what’s on offer or book a talk please click here www.lesswaste.org.uk/talks/

Why can other areas recycle different materials to us?

Different local authorities send their recycling to different recycling facilities. The items/materials that are accepted by these facilities may vary slightly by area. The government are in the process of consulting with local authorities and others concerning materials accepted for recycling, with the aim of each local authority collecting a consistent set of materials for recycling. In Leicestershire, Casepak, which is a Materials Recycling Facility in Leicester, sorts a wide range of materials, as they have sustainable and economically viable end destinations where they get recycled.

Please check our page on Lesswaste www.lesswaste.org.uk/recycle/items-accepted-for-recycling-at-casepak/ or your local district / borough council website to see what can be recycled in your area.

Why do bottles need to be empty?

Any bottles with liquid in them have to be removed and sent for disposal as the liquid could leak during the sorting and baling processes, spoiling other materials. In addition, there is no way of telling whether the liquid is hazardous, thus posing a potential danger to staff if it leaks.

Should I squash bottles and containers?

Ideally, no. Keeping bottles and containers in their original shape helps keep them separate from flat objects such as paper and card in the sorting process. However, some squashing is not a problem if you are limited for space in your recycling bin.

Can I put black plastic in the recycling bin?

Currently black plastic isn’t accepted in the kerbside recycling (unless you live in North West Leicestershire).

The recycling is sent to Casepak, which is a Material Recycling Facility in Leicester. It currently does not have the technology to capture black plastic.

This is because the optical sorters at the facility do not capture black plastics. They are dependent on the amount of light that can pass through the bottles. With black plastic no light can pass through therefore it cannot be captured.

Casepak are constantly looking into the best ways to capture as much material as possible. However, the market for black plastic is currently not appealing to invest in technology to recover it.

What type of glass can I put in my recycle bin?

Glass bottles and jars can be placed into your kerbside recycling. Please make sure they are rinsed and dried first. Drinking glasses, window glass, Pyrex, Flat glass, shower screens and cubicles cannot be placed into your kerbside recycling and need to be taken to your local recycling and household waste site. Please note, there is a charge to dispose of window glass, flat glass, shower screens and shower cubicles. For further information please click here https://www.leicestershire.gov.uk/environment-and-planning/waste-and-recycling/how-do-i-dispose-of#G