A practical guide for local authorities on cutting contamination, dry recyclable materials collected at the kerbside.

Key points
  • In 2012/13, between 0% and 27% of materials input to Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) was rejected and not sent for recycling

  • The median figure for MRF input material not sent for recycling was 6.4% (includes those local authorities that recorded zero tonnes of material not sent for recycling).

  • According to WRAP’s 3 Tracker Survey, 50% of residents do not include unwanted materials in their recycling containers

Overview

This report details how increasing quality by cutting contamination levels in dry recyclable materials collected at the kerbside can generate valuable benefits, for local authorities and their stakeholders.

Unwanted (i.e. non-recyclable or non-targeted) materials included in boxes, sacks or bins set out by householders for recycling – or placed by crews in the wrong compartments of collection vehicles results in:

  • an increase in collection, sorting and reprocessing costs;
  • a reduction in the quality and quantity of materials destined for recycling;
  • and lower revenues and/or higher gate fees for local authorities.

Evidence from Question 58 in Waste Data Flow indicates that the degree of contamination (reported) of dry recyclables varies considerably. In 2012/13, between 0% and 27% of materials input to Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) was rejected and sent to waste to energy or landfill; that is, not sent for recycling. The median figure for MRF input material not sent for recycling was 6.4%, however this figure includes those local authorities (8% of authorities) that recorded zero tonnes of material not sent for recycling.\

Contents

Introduction >>

Part A - Contamination: Causes and Costs

What is contamination and how does it occur? >>
Scale and implications of the problem >>
Impact on key players in the quality chain >>
Legislation relevant to materials quality >>

Part C – Mini Case Studies

Tewkesbury Borough Council - MRF sampling can generate valuable data on contamination >>
North Lincolnshire Council - Service leaflets can target specific types of contamination >>
London Borough of Lewisham - A clear step-by-step process can tackle repeat contamination >>
Bassetlaw District Council - Crew workshops can strengthen the fight against contamination >>

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