The complexities of recycling were expertly explained to Leicester Novus Rotary by Sallie Butt, who is an Environment and waste Technician in the Waste Initiatives team at Leicestershire County Council.
Members were keen to learn why each district tackled recycling differently and why it is not possible for them to adopt a standardised, unified approach.
Sallie explained that recycling from six districts in Leicestershire now goes to Casepak, which is a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in Leicester. (Collections from North West Leicestershire are sorted at their depot in Coalville) Once at Casepak the mixed materials are all separated and sorted into the different material streams using state of the art equipment before being baled and sent on for reprocessing.
She mentioned that the districts are in the process of putting together a single list of items accepted for collection at kerbside for all the districts that use Casepak and that this will hopefully provide greater consistency for residents for what can and cannot be recycled at home.
Sallie also showed members a diagram of the Waste Hierarchy which prioritises waste prevention and gave us some ideas for reducing the use of single-use items and packaging, encouraging us to look for alternatives for certain everyday items.
We were also given a recycling challenge during the evening where we had to say what we thought could be recycled at home from an array of items on display and then along with the answers were given top tips on how to present the different items for recycling.
Sallie explained what happens when you put the wrong materials in your recycling and the issues around contamination. The top three items that cause the biggest impact with contamination are food and drink, nappies and textiles. Items still containing leftover food or liquids can spoil other items affecting the quality of the recycling or even preventing items from being recycled. Textiles, such as clothing can get trapped in the machinery which can cause damage and slow the process down. Textiles are best given to charity, taken to a clothes bank or taken to the Recycling and Household Waste Sites (RHWS) where they can go for reuse or be recycled into something new.
Although materials are sorted using machinery Sallie explained that there are still lots of people involved in the process and putting in the wrong materials can make it very unpleasant or dangerous for them too.
The session also covered information on the different symbols we see on packaging and what they really mean. Sallie said that things were evolving and suggested that we look out for new messaging and guidance in the near future. She also explained why residents are now asked to leave lids on bottles and to not squash plastic bottles. The County Council are about to launch a recycling campaign aiming to reduce contamination in the recycling and encourage us to recycle more things, more often.
Such was the interest in the subject that Sallie was kept busy answering questions long after her presentation was concluded. And, going well beyond the bounds of duty, she promised to find answers to those few questions she could not answer at the meeting.
Last edited: 20:10 04.06.2019
A few days later, Sallie e-mailed the answers to the questions she needed to research. The questions and the answers are here:
Q: How much, in terms of percentage, of the materials that arrive at Casepak actually get recycled?
A: About 90% across the county
Q: What happens to the electrical items when they’re taken to the Recycling and Household Waste Sites
A: The items are usually separated into different areas at the sites, for example large household appliances are usually separate to small appliances (the material that they are made up of varies with larger items tending to contain more metals and smaller items tend to contain more plastic) and there might be an area for lighting and fluorescent tubes etc and one for batteries. As part of extended producer responsibility (EPR) the producers are responsible for the collection, treatment and recovery and also the environmentally sound disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). We partner with a producer compliance scheme (PCS) which is a membership organisation made up of producers of WEEE and they collect the items and work with processors to fulfil the regulations.
Thank you, Sallie, for going the extra mile!