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Invest in right stuff, right bin to cut contamination

22nd August 2016

Viridor has today called on Defra and English local councils to review ‘waste’ management models and to invest in educating consumers everywhere about why cutting waste contamination matters. The call came following a BBC freedom of information request, which showed the amount of household rubbish being rejected for recycling in England has increased by 84% over the past four years.

Dan Cooke, Director of External Affairs, said:

“Recycling is a real UK success story. We’ve made really strong progress in the last decade, moving from single digit recycling to the 44.3% figure we see today, with knock on benefits including multi-billion pound investment into high-tech green infrastructure and 95,000 direct jobs.

“But for the first time in fifteen years, recycling rates have slipped back. While this regression is small at 0.7%, it has been accompanied by a marked increase in contamination – people putting the wrong stuff in the wrong bin.”

Mr. Cooke highlighted the environmental and economic case for high-quality recycling. He said:

“Why do we recycle? There’s the environmental case – we’re consuming resources at a rate where we would need three planets, not one to survive. But there are also the economic benefits of a more circular economy, with green jobs and investment linked to British manufacturing and a new industrial strategy. So our job is simple, to transform waste and give resources new life.”

The Freedom of Information Request by BBC Breakfast found 97% of the rejected rubbish was incinerated or sent to landfill in 2013-14 – the most recent year for which such figures were available. Just over 173,000 tons of rejected waste was incinerated or sent to landfill in 2011-12, with the figure rising to 270,000 tons two years later.

Mr. Cooke added:

“The good news is that around 97% of material put in recycling bins is recycled. Only around 3% is rejected due to contamination and of that, much will still be used to generate energy.

“The public instinctively want to recycle and do the right thing and 8 in 10 people see ‘waste’ as a valuable resource. But we all lead busy lives – getting the kids ready, taking them to school, getting to work – and taking out the trash isn’t the top priority. We need to make recycling simple, and remind people why right stuff, right bin matters.”

He added “with circa 300 collection systems in England it’s no wonder people are confused”, pointing to research showing 64% of people are frustrated about knowing what they can and can’t recycle. He added that the most common mistakes are around plastics and containers, but said the company often sees food waste, nappies and sanitary products in recycling containers.

In January, Viridor published a paper on ‘Regional Resource Networks’ stating that current waste management systems in England are no longer fit for purpose. The paper called for systems to be replaced with a new and ambitious model that moves resource management beyond local authority boundaries, realising the economic potential for British business, manufacturers and public sector bodies.

In a call to action, Mr. Cooke concluded:

“Resource policy in England stands at a crossroads. It’s time to look again at recycling, to work towards the economic opportunity of more aggregated, consistent models designed around people and products, not systems from a bygone era. We need to listen to people, to work harder at making recycling simple and to re-invest at re-telling the story of recycling and why it matters.”

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