Keeping incorrect items out of the recycling

Published: Thursday, 4th July 2019

In light of the declaration of a climate emergency, and to make Oxford clean and green, Oxford City Council is determined to recycle as much household waste as possible.

The Council recognises the urgent need to properly value our natural resources and ensure that all items that can be recycled are recycled and contribute to the sustainability of our environment and our economy. To ensure that recycling rates are high, the quality of collected material must also be high. So the city has reaffirmed its commitment to reduce the instance of incorrect items found in household recycling.

Most Oxford residents recycle very well and recycling figures are good. But incorrect items in recycling bins mean good quality material can end up being rejected. That's not only a waste - it costs the City Council money too. 

The City Council collects mixed recycling to make it easy for everyone to recycle as much as possible at home. Ensuring that their bins contain only the correct materials is one of the best ways for residents to contribute to high recycling rates and quality. The city has a dedicated recycling team that is committed to addressing issues and providing advice and assistance to ensure that recycling is as easy and effective as possible.

When recycling is presented correctly (i.e. loose, rinsed and squashed with any excess in a clear sack or cardboard box) it is collected and sent for separation and reprocessing at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). The MRF checks recycling loads and can reject an entire load if it contains items it cannot accept. In the case of the blue recycling bins, incorrect items include food and food-soiled items, black bin liners, nappies and textiles.

Councillor Nigel Chapman, Cabinet Member for Safer Communities and Customer Focused Services, said: “We need to do all we can to minimise the loss of good recycling. Just a few wrong items in the recycling can result in a whole load being rejected and increase the cost of disposal.

"This is a real pity when we have made significant strides towards being a clean, green city. Domestic recycling rates have steadily increased every year since 2010, from around 43 per cent to over 51 per cent. Rubbish in the green bins has also decreased over the same period by almost 22 per cent and I want to thank those who have made the effort to reduce and recycle.

"Now we need to step up our efforts to stop recycling becoming mixed with the wrong items."

In the three weeks prior to July, the MRF (operated by Viridor in Crayford, Kent) rejected six bulk loads of recycling due to unacceptable items, meaning over 110 tonnes of recycling have been sent to energy recovery for disposal, costing around £12,000. In comparison to May, June has seen an estimated 10 per cent increase in contamination.

Since wheelie bins were introduced to Oxford in 2010 it has been a consistent policy not to collect bins containing the wrong items. Oxford Direct Services (ODS), which provides the bin collection service, places a sticker on a bin with unacceptable items signaling why it has not been collected.

ODS also reports such bins into a live reporting system at the time the street is serviced and contacts the resident with a letter of explanation on the first occasion. If the bin is found with a wrong item a second time the resident will be visited by a Recycling Liaison Officer who will offer advice and assistance. If the problem persists, further action may be taken.

Simon Howick, Managing Director of ODS, said: “We feel very passionate about helping people reduce, reuse and recycle and continuously work to foster the same passion with residents, schools and businesses.

“We will do our best to provide more help and information to everybody who wants to ensure that they are recycling well. Our recycling team is working on that. However, due to the safety of our crew and the privacy of residents, the collection crew is unable to remove any incorrect items and the Council requires evidence to the contrary to overturn their report.”

More information about the city’s recycling and rubbish collection policies can be found here 

For updates, tips and more follow ODS’s recycling team on Facebook.