Recycling. This is often the first thing people associate with Zero Waste and with good reason. All 32 local authority areas in Scotland operate some form of domestic recycling collection. Most households have access to council recycling centres, local glass collection points and public collection points, so recycling has never been easier. But here’s the thing, despite all the options available there’s still confusion over what can and can’t be recycled, and a perpetuating sense of mystery as to what happens to our waste once our bins are emptied. Below are answers to some of most frequently asked questions.
Q1 “What can I recycle in my blue lidded bin?”
Pretty much all rigid plastic packaging, along with tins, cans, paper, cardboard and cartons are currently accepted for recycling within the Perth & Kinross domestic recycling service (but see Q4 below).
Q2 “Should bag my items before putting them in my blue bin?”
Definitely not! Bags get caught in the machinery in the Mixed Recycling Facility (MRF) where recycling is sorted and separated into bales.
Q3 “Should I rinse items before I put them in my blue bin?”
Yes. And don’t put other items into the blue bin. Effective recycling means ensuring materials aren’t contaminated. Contamination occurs when materials not accepted for recycling (like polystyrene trays or food waste) are mixed in with materials in your blue lidded bin. Contamination can cause both a hygiene and logistical issues. It can potentially mean that entire lorry loads of recycling have to be sent to landfill. It’s crucial that the stuff in your blue bin is clean, loose and un-bagged.
Q4 "Can I put black plastic items in my blue bin?"
Yes and no! Some black plastic items can be recycled, but only into other black plastic items which aren't so valuable economically or environmentally. For example, black plastic ready-meal trays, if they are clean, won't cause contamination so they will be removed from the sorting line at recycling centres and may be made into other black plastic items. However, plant pots are different. Used plant pots of any colour should not be put in your blue bin due to the risk of contamination. If your used back plant pots are still functional, reuse or upcycle them yourself, or contact a local plant nursery or community group to see if they can make use of them. If all of that fails, dispose of plant pots as general waste.
Q5 "Can I put soft plastics in my blue bin?"
No, because bags clog up the machinery in recycling centres. However, some supermarkets, such as Tesco, Sainsburys and Morrisons, have bag recycling points that accept carrier bags and similar soft plastics, such as bread wrappers. These are sent to a specialist re-processor. The outputs from this recycling have limited potential for reuse, but at least have a longer life in the circular economy.
Q6 “What happens to the contents of my blue bin after collection?”
Waste is checked for contamination and is then sorted into different bales through a mixture of mechanical processes and manual picking and sorting. Once sorted, materials are then sold on to manufacturers where they can be remade into new goods. This handy video shows the recycling process in action https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCaiYdZ6uAw&pbjreload=10
Q7 “Is the waste dealt with locally?”
Unfortunately, there isn’t a facility available locally with the capacity to deal with the amount of recycling regularly produced throughout Perth & Kinross. All the material for recycling is taken to the Suez Mixed Recycling Facility in Northumberland. Whilst not ideal, this does allow large volumes of material to be recycled effectively.
Q8 “What else can I do to reduce waste?”
Recycling is important but it’s definitely not the end of the zero waste journey by any stretch of the imagination. Reducing the waste we all generate in the first place is also vital. You can help by making some simple choices. Accept less packaging on the goods you buy; choose items like such as reusable carriers bags and water bottles. Small changes made by many people soon add up. They keep resources in circulation for longer and reduce the demand to produce new products designed to be disposed of. Blogs such as Treading My Own Path have some excellent advice for those looking to reduce waste in their lives https://treadingmyownpath.com/
Still got questions?
So next time you’re heading out to the shops, remember to bring your refillable bottle with you, a bag for your shopping and look for packaging free or products with minimal packaging. It’s the small changes like these that will make the biggest difference to us all.
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