Across the world, there is a growing movement towards increasing recycling and re-use rates of waste. However, recycling can be compromised if the waste sent to recycling plants is contaminated. In England a Freedom of Information request revealed that the quantity of rejected recyclable waste has increased by 84% over the past four years with England’s councils unable to recycle 338,000 tonnes of waste in 2014/15 - up from 184,000 tonnes in 2011/12. Almost all (97%) of the rejected rubbish was incinerated or sent to landfill in 2013/14 - the most recent year of available data. This does need to be put into context, of all the material sent for recycling in England last year, just 3% was rejected - 338,000 out of more than 11 million tonnes of recycling and, of that, much was still used to generate energy.
The reason for this increase in rejected recyclable waste is contamination, caused by the wrong materials being placed in the wrong bins, or containers still holding the remnants of unconsumed food or liquids. This is often due to confusion over what should or should not be included within recycling containers.
Dan Cooke, director of external affairs, Viridor, a leading UK recycling, energy recovery and waste management company, commented on these figures: “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. 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.”
Waste management is a key part of GreenLinks, the sustainable development programme for The Open. Local schools provide teams of litter pickers and segregation bins are provided across the links to help spectators identify where they should deposit their rubbish.