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Canterbury City Council clamping down on bin contamination after huge amount of recycling sent to landfill

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Refuse workers are to ramp up checks on blue recycling bins - with residents warned contaminated loads will not be emptied.

It comes after it emerged more than 670 tonnes of recycling had to be sent to landfill across the Canterbury district last year, thanks to “irresponsible” householders dumping the wrong items in bins.

Many blue bins are being filled with rubbish which cannot be recycled
Many blue bins are being filled with rubbish which cannot be recycled

Contaminated rubbish cost not only the planet but the taxpayer too, as the errors set Canterbury City Council (CCC) back a staggering £60,000, figures suggest.

The authority has admitted a “need to improve” recycling in the district, and is launching a campaign to educate residents about which items can be put in which bin.

Spokesman Rob Davies warned: “We will also start being more rigorous in checking blue bins before they are emptied into the dustcarts, and any bins with items in them that should not be there will not be emptied.”

In many cases, it is not until waste reaches recycling centres that it is found to be contaminated with non-recyclable materials. When this happens, a portion of the collection, including genuine recyclables, is sent instead to landfill rather than being recycled.

New figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show 673 tonnes of recycling - weighing the same as 56 double-decker buses - collected by Canterbury council was rejected at the point of sorting in the year up to March 2021.


Recycling charity Wrap estimates it costs councils about £93 per tonne to then dispose of such waste.

This means rejected recycling cost taxpayers in Canterbury an estimated £62,589 in 2020/21 alone.

Mr Davies said: “Contamination of recycling loads is a challenge faced by all councils.

“It is an area where we recognise we need to improve, but there is no one magic solution to the problem.”

Mr Davies revealed some of the regular contaminates placed in blue recycling bins include nappies, paper, card, food, textiles, hard plastics and plastic film.

He added: “Even random items like toasters and other small pieces of electrical equipment are found more often than you would believe.

“Our view is that most contamination is caused by genuine error, such as through lack of understanding.

A toaster is among items that have been found in recycling bins in the Canterbury district. Picture: Canterbury City Council
A toaster is among items that have been found in recycling bins in the Canterbury district. Picture: Canterbury City Council

“This is known as ‘wishful recycling’, where people are trying to do the right thing, but aren’t sure, and put the wrong items in hoping it’s OK.

“But it must also be said that in the case of the toaster and other similar items, people are just irresponsibly using their recycling bin to get rid of anything, and that is very difficult to tackle.”

This year, the city council will use funding from Kent County Council to run a series of campaigns aimed at reducing contamination levels.

Mr Davies said: “We have already given away thousands of free and discounted red recycling bins for paper and card to residents, as we understand that some people simply do not have the correct containers. This will make a significant contribution to reducing the amount of paper and card that falls into the blue bin.

“Discounted recycling containers - red and blue wheelie bins or red and blue boxes depending on the type of property - are still available to buy online at canterbury.gov.uk/newbin.

“And we are about to send information to all households to remind people about what items go in what bin as part of a major recycling education campaign, as well as improving the content on our website.

“We do believe that the vast majority of residents are environmentally sensitive and want to recycle, but are hamstrung by things like missing containers, confusing labelling or uncertainty about what to do.

“Our focus this year will be on trying to crack as many of these problems as possible and, with residents’ support, we hope to make real progress towards improving our figures.”

For more information on recycling, click here.

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