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Thoughts on Recycling

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 4 months ago

This is a page designed to capture our thoughts about recycling efforts.

Please use your twitter name to contribute if you have one. Wiki Access code is "green"


A great discussion started up today on Twitter, initiated by @tomraftery, @ccmehil and @eddydc...

It seems we're all somewhat bit frustrated about our experiences.




Key Issues:


in the UK many councils demand people sort out their own recycling into different boxes.

then they just put them in landfill. via @lludovic and @yellowpark (video here)




Personal Experiences:

@monkchips: I live and work in Hackney, recently named London's greenest borough (largely a function of being one of London's poorest but there you go). At this point Hackney is actually doing an admirable job of recycling. They come once a week and take food waste, garden waste, glass, paper and cardboard, even clothes. They take the stuff and put it in compartmentalised trucks. There are also many local "bottle banks".


@dominiccampbell: I live in Islington which has a very effeective recycling scheme from a user perspective, but due to the way the waste is not kept separate (rather it is co-mingled) an awful lot of this waste will never be recycled despite our best efforts which is a little depressing. In my working life, I was responsible for the development of the 'compulsory recycling scheme' in the London Borough of Barnet, the first such scheme in the UK which has now been rolled out elsewhere (Hackney included). I also worked on a 'waste review' in the borough where it was recognised that waste minimisation is far more instrumental than recycling in boosting green goals (although far harder to achieve and often out of the control of the local councils).


@folknology: I live in Farnham, Surrey, Uk. We have alternating garbage and recylcling fortnightly. The recycling has two black palstic box types, one for paper (not cardboard) the other is for plastic bottles, cartons and tin/aluminium. There is also a small crate for glass such as bottles (to much vino!). We also managed to gain an additional black box for plastics and aluminium as a family with heavier consumption via special request. The service is excellent allthough in 2007 the day would change after each holiday causing minor confusions. This year the collection days remain the same (mondays) for our street. For other goods such as cardborad we use the local facilities at a nearby supermarket. After some research I can confirm that the recycling does actually get recycled - our local recycling FAQ


@mario: I live in Wandsworth, and while I don't know what actually happens to the recycling once it's collected, it's very easy and effective from a household's POV - all paper, cardboard, glass, aluminium and plastics go into orange bags (i.e. no need to separate them), which is collected weekly on the same day as the normal rubbish collection.


@yellowpark: I live in Kent. Our recycling scheme consists of putting all recyclables into one bag. This bag is then collected and put into a traditional style rubbish truck. I fail to see how this can recycle any of the items. Not ony are the items mixed up, but they are then crushedby the truck rendering them worthless. video here. We need one recycling scheme for the whole of the UK There are 32 London Boroughs and 32 recycling schemes. Unifying the UKs recycling would create economies of scale and provide a consistant system that everone would understand. Business needs to be focussed upon. Take the trains. I have regularly seen trains being cleaned with all rubbish being placed into one bag. Surely this cannot be recycled as all the different types of rubbish are mixed up. I shudder to think how much paper this looses from the recycling system. When a business buys waste collection services from a council, they get a mini skip type bin that is emptied a couple of times a week. Again, must be landfill as everything is mixed up. We need recycling to be sorted at source. Exactly the way Hackey do the system, where each different type of material is placed in seperate boxes This maximises the amount hat can be recycled and preserves the abaility to recycle.  On a positive note, Kent County Council run a subsidised compost bin system, allowing you to buy a compost bin from £8, including delivery.  I'll be investing in one soon.


@mario: yellowpark, Wandsworth council claim the mixed recycling is "sent to a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in Crayford, Kent where the materials are sorted out using a variety of mechanical and hand-sorting techniques" (from this page), so unless they're lying, just the fact that the recycling isn't separated at source (i.e. at home) doesn't mean it can't be recycled. I don't disagree with you on the benefits of unifying the system though, and to be a little controversial, I would actually support making people pay for the amount of rubbish they throw away. It works in many European countries, e.g. in Switzerland there are boroughs where you have to buy special refuse bags at a premium price, and rubbish is only collected if it's inside one of these bags. I believe many other countries have similar ways of charging for the amount of rubbish that is thrown away.


@yellowpark: mario, I understand that a mixed bag of recyclables can be hand sorted. My point being that sorting at source is the most efficient means of ensuring that the different materials are sorted correctly and efficiently. Hand sorting means wages and adds another processing layer that could be hugely reduced by sorting at source. The same goes for how we have litter bins without compartments for the different materals both in the home, on the street and in businesses.


@mario: yellowpark, agreed - but there is presumably a trade-off. If simplifying the recycling process by not requiring people to separate their recycling means that people actually recycle more, then the overhead of sorting it elsewhere may be worth it in the overall scheme. I don't speak from any position of expertise here, and I don't know what (if any) figures exist to back this up.. just thinking out loud.


@yellowpark: mario, that is a very valid point that I hadn't considered. It would be interesting to compare recycling volumes between Hackney, where items are sorted thoroughly at source and another borough like Wandsworth where everything goes into one bag. Also, to compare the value of the total recylables and the overhead for administering the schemes. Some of this info surely must be available as public informatin.


@derekabdinor never put glass shards in with the normal rubbish. Cuts hands, and mixed in with all the gunk inevitably leads to infection. If you can't toss into a bottle bank (can't really think why not) put into shoebox and masking tape over. Mark as having glass shards in


@eddydc: Flanders (Belgium) claims to be the champions of sorting out waste. All depends on each town who decides which type of recycling will be done. In our town it goes like this:

  • paper, cardboard, ... collected once a month or can be dumped at the container park. Both are free.
  • certain plastics (bottles, etc), metal (tins, cans, etc) and beverage coated board packaging are collected every forthnight a via special plastic bag (bag to be payed) or can be dumped at the container park for free
  • vegetable, fruit and garden waste is collected every every forthnight a via a special trash bin which is billed per kilogram waste or if you have you a garden, can be composted (free of course)
  • all the rest of the waste is collected every every forthnight a via a special trash bin which is billed per kilogram waste


As alternative for the latteris the containerpark where you can dump:

    • parts of trees and prunings (paid/kg)
    • cellular concrete (paid/kg)
    • electric devices (free)
    • asbestos cement (free)
    • plaster (paid/kg)
    • glass (free)
    • grass, foliage, hedge waste (paid/kg)
    • large waste like mattrasses, etc (paid/kg)
    • reusable goods (free)
    • ceramics (paid/kg)
    • small chemical waste like paint (free)
    • cork (free)
    • old metal (free)
    • paper, cardboard (free)
    • frying fat (for french fries) (free)
    • expanded poly-styrene (free)
    • plastic foil (free)
    • certain plastics (bottles, etc), metal (tins, cans, etc) and beverage coated board packaging (free)
    • wood (paid/kg)
    • bricks (paid/kg)
    • batteries(free)
    • striplights (free)
    • textile (free)


That's somewhat it. Things can vary depending on the town. In the Antwerp area, you can thorw your nappies together with the vegetable, fruit and garden waste for the fermentation installation. Other regios don't collect tins, etc seperately.


@cherkoff I live in Hackney and am constantly impressed by the number of lorries driving around picking up various refuse/recycling/cleaning jobs. I understand that it's part of Mayor Jules Pipe decision to clean up the borough and take green seriously. The only grumble I have is that a very simple adjustment to the green refuse boxes - ie a lid - would stop rubbish blowing all over the place. That and banning flyers of which I get about five a day.


@lludovic: responses received from Richmond Council, after reading in papers recycled trash ends up in landfill. Interesting but does not answer my questions.


Dear @lludovic


Thank you for your email


Firstly may I apologise for any confusion.


Due to the large increase in recycling being put out for collection we are experiencing some operational delays. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience and missed collections while the new service beds in. We have indeed been very busy in our first few months of the new service.


Due to the popularity of the new recycling service, some of our rounds are having difficulty dealing with the quantity of recycling in their area. In order to deal with this, we are collecting some of our recycling in refuse vehicles which can compact it. The 'co-mingled' recycling is then taken to a special recycling facility in Greenwich and separated for recycling. Please do not be concerned, it is still being recycled and will not end up in a landfill site. This should not go on for much longer. We are waiting for new recycling trucks which have been delayed due to a manufacturing problem. You may wish to know that together we are now recycling just over 40% of our waste, which means we are currently beating a government target set for 2010. Thank you for recycling and helping us sustain this.


Thank you for letting us know about your concerns. We are very sorry to hear that you have been disappointed and we are working to resolve any initial teething problems caused by the new service as soon as possible. We have had an unexpectedly high additional take up of our recycling service - up to 20% extra in many areas and are also dealing with the additional new materials. Inevitably this has meant that there has been a service lapse in some areas. I do apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.




Miss Natasha xxx


Customer & Contractor Relations Assistant


Recycling Department


Richmond Borough Council



@mario: For anyone interested in recycling rates for London boroughs, I just found this interesting page


@marilynpratt: We in US are waking up now to contribute (late :-) ? ) So here in Teaneck, NJ, USA where I reside, there is recycling, its fairly granular and many folks participate, but in my opinion there aren't enough punitive actions for those who don't or incentives for those that do. I'll use @eddydc 's structure as a basis for comparison.


newspapers,paper, cardboard, ... collected once a month or can be dumped at the container park. Both are free. (but I could as easily have put paper in the trash and not be penalized)


certain plastics (bottles, etc), metal (tins, cans, etc) and beverage coated board packaging are collected every month roadside or can be dumped at the container park for free

vegetable, fruit and garden waste is collected curbside (only when in paper bags and only in summer and spring) and can be composted in garden year-round (free of course)

all the rest of the waste is collected bi-weekly at either a fixed sum for unlimited waste or using a sticker system which is weighted.

plastic bags, which are still too freely used in all shopping are collected at the supermarket (no clue what happens to them), personally we bring our own reusable bags but there is no incentive to do that other than feeling good.

There is also no real incentive to use the sticker system which by extension should encourage more monitoring or waste quantity reduction. The only advantage of using the stickers is that weekly you are allowed to dump (free) one large item (such as a sofa, mattress, appliance)

All the other items detailed by @eddydc above are recyclable at our dump free.

I have oftened wondered why there isn't more visability about what happens to the stuff post dump. What is the carbon footprint of the waste processing? What should be personal guidelines? Does it waste more water to wash out containers (which is required without explaination of why). It would be helpful to know how glass and plastics are recycled.


@sogrady: here in Denver, the recycling situation is actually both consumer friendly and relatively comprehensive. all recyclable waste - bottles, cans, various forms of paper, etc - are deposited into a segregated dumpster which is then collected and processed. weekly, i believe. back in Maine, it's slightly more complicated, but also more incented. local Transfer Stations will collect different forms of recycling individually, from cans to cardboard to newspapers to plastics to glass, all of which need to be separated out by hand by the consumer. our local Transfer Station is only open Wed, Sat, and Sun, but that varies by municipality. separate from the above, Maine is a state that refunds for recycling to incent participation. at the time of purchase, any beverage container - metal, glass or plastic - is tagged with a 5 cent deposit. these deposits can them be redeemed at the appropriately named redemption centers. very few bottles or cans, then, make it into the regular trash (unlike in Denver) because it equates to throwing money away.



  • Florida, having lived there for several years I can safely say that they have somewhat of a recylcing plan. Weekly or is it biweekly we have a blue bin and in goes the paper, corrugated carboard and bottles/cans which are then taken. Most Car Oil Change places will also take used oil if you are a DIY type person. Goodwill, Salvation Army and Red Cross also accept old clothing. Yard waste is also a special pickup day.
  • Illinois - Was only there a short period but they don't do much at all (at least where I was)
  • Detroit - Grocery stores all had the machines which took the cans and bottles with a refund on it but otherwise the apartments I lived in had no system in place. While here I would often bring back big bags of cans from visits to Illinois to return when back in Detroit.
  • Germany, now Germany is a big one on recylcing. There are 4 different bins, there is a brown bag which goes in a brown bin and that is for Biodegradable items, then a yellow bag for all recyclables, then a blue bin for paper recyclables, a bucket at the office for batteries, one for CD’s and diskettes, printer cartridges, and a gray bin for the rest. There are also a ton of locations which do the printer cartridge refills. All drink (can and bottles) have a refund from 15 cent to 25 cent and you hardly ever see one laying on the side of road - like @sogrady said it eqates to throwing money away. Glass that does not have a refund there are large bins everywhere for green/colored glass and clear glass to dump them. Red Cross also has large bins everywhere for clothing donations.


@RichHeilman: I live in York, Pennsylvania which is about 110 miles west of Philadelphia, PA. I believe our recycling efforts are more on the low end or basic side compared to other areas of the world. Basically we have a bin which will fill up with plastics, aluminum, and glass and is collected once a week. I believe that they also except newspaper as well, and these must be placed in a paper bag. Recently, grocery stores( most likely not just in my area ) have been selling reuseable grocery bags( to answer the age old question "paper or plastic" ) which are made out of some sort of synthetic canvas for 1 USD each. My family has since purchased a couple and plan to get enough to handle all of the groceries.


@jazzydee in Melbourne Australia we have three bins - a small one for waste, then about double the size for greens (garden waste) and another large bin for recycling. The greens and recycle bins alternate weekly. Recycling includes glass, plastics, cardboard etc.


@njbartlett: Recycling is comprehensive and complicated in Japan. See this information sheet (in English) from the City of Yokohama. Even public bins on the street etc are divided into at least three sections: there's no escape!


@chrismahan: I was at DFW airport, terminal 3, on Dec 31 2007 at 8PM. I had an empty plastic water bottle in my hand, and was looking for a recycling bin. I saw a maintenance guy, and asked him if they had a recycling bin. He said: "No, sorry, just put it in the regular trash". I did. I could tell he was bummed about that too. Shame on you Dallas Fort-Worth Airport! Other than that, here in Los Angeles, we started doing recycling in our condo building about 3 years ago. There are five big blue bins that get emptied weekly. Some people throw stuff in there that shouldn't go in there (like banana peels). My wife is Japanese. She washes the stuff before it gets recycled.


@tomraftery - I live in Ireland and waste collection is done both by local councils and by private companies. Each have their own methods of collecting and charging. Most operate a two or more wheelie bin operation with one bin for recyclable waste and another for non-recyclable. Our waste company has a third bin for glass. Others have another for what they call green waste (i.e. grass, hedge clippings, etc.). Our waste co. has flat rates charged per quarter, others have a (lower) flat rate and also charge by weight.

Our local counciluses the local landfill site to generate electricity. What they do is capture the methane given off by the rotting rubbish, burn the methane to give them cheap electricity. This has the double benefit of cheap electricity and reducing the methane emissions.

Councils also operate free drop sites for recycling.

The Irish govt has drastically reduced the number of plastic shopping bags being used by rolling out an education campaign followed by a 15c levy on plastic bags collectable by the shops. It is not so much the 15c but it is now not socially acceptable to use plastic non-reusable shopping bags. When this law came into force overnight use of plastic shopping bags dropped by over 95%.

The Irish govt have now announced that they will be banning the sale of non-cfc lightbulbs in 2009.


@jamesandrews: I live in a modern block in Hackney and the refuse area has separate bins for paper and clear/green/brown glass alongside the normal bins. I'd like to see separate collections for tins, plastic and food waste but at least there is some separation of rubbish. My previous building, also in Hackney, didn't have any facilities for this, so things seem to be moving in the right direction. My brother lives in Spain and the rubbish separation is much more sophisticated than I've experienced in the UK, so I'd like to see things improve further.


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