Each week, early in the morning, you drag your bin out to the kerb. Later that day you bring it in again, empty. It's one of life’s little routines that we take for granted. But how often do we stop and think about our waste?
I joined Rugby Borough Council in April with a mission to increase Rugby’s recycling: since 2016 our recycling rate has dropped and is now around 43 per cent. Looking around at our neighbours in Warwickshire, we’re roughly mid-table, some are worse, but some are much better.
Call me crazy, but I love this town that has been my home for 18 years, so I’m making it my personal mission to get us to the top of the league, and one of the first things we’ll be doing is tackling the so-called problem of ‘wishcycling’.
This slightly confusing term has been in the news recently, and it means “the act of placing items into the recycling bin in the hopes they will be recycled”, which I expect all of us have done at one time or another.
There are many things which stop us from recycling correctly, but from what I have seen the main problem is simple – we’re just not sure about it. The vast majority of our bins are full of correctly separated recycling – but with small mistakes: mostly plastic bags and food waste.
Let’s get technical for a minute and understand what happens after your friendly bin man or lady takes away your blue-bin waste.
Assuming our crews are happy that your bin has no obvious signs of contamination (yes they do check!), your waste comes to our depot on Hunters Lane. It is then whisked away to the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) about 15 miles away near Leicester. Here, complex machinery allows your waste to be quickly sorted into various different streams – aluminium, paper, different types of plastics, etc – following which they can then be treated ready to be recycled into brand new materials.
Issues with contamination come from the effect on the machinery. To give a few examples:
plastic bags get caught up in the moving parts;
food waste is difficult to separate. It gets into the final product and reduces the quality, making it less usable;
wet paper and card become sticky and clog up the machinery;
batteries can catch fire (this is becoming much more of a problem with the rise in disposable vapes).
By making a few small changes to our habits, we will start to see effects rippling through. At Rugby Borough Council, we will be doing our part by making it clearer what can and can’t be recycled, with better information coming to our website, and I will personally be going out into the Rugby’s communities. If you are a school or group and would like a visit or talk from me, please get in touch.
I’m really encouraged to see how many of our residents care deeply about recycling and the environment in general – you only have to look at amazing groups like Rugby Litter Busters and Rugby Repair Café (find them on Facebook if you’ve not come across them before).
But if you take one action away from Great Big Green Week 2023, I would ask you to simply take 5 minutes to check our website www.rugby.gov.uk/recycling and make sure you know What Goes in Which Bin.