This week is National Recycling Week, it is an opportunity to focus on the good, the bad and the ugly side of our recycling service.

Check your bin: Lifting the lids on recycling, Council is checking the contents of recycling bins to ensure contents comply.
Check your bin: Lifting the lids on recycling, Council is checking the contents of recycling bins to ensure contents comply.

Councils recycling service commenced almost 22 years ago, and we have come a long way since. In 1997 the average home recycled just 143.6 kilos per year, today the average is 182 kilos, a huge increase made possible by residents supporting their local environment and the service.

The simple task of recycling has a huge environmental benefit. It diverts 6359 tonnes in the Maitland LGA every year, this is equal in weight to over 3533 family sized cars. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 760 cars off the road each year.

Since 1997 we have saved 114167 tonnes from landfill, in doing so we prolong the life of the Maitland waste management centre, thereby reducing costs to residents and avoiding the NSW Government waste levy of $141 for every tonne of waste disposed of at landfill. Councils are not exempt from this levy and they are forced to pass this cost on to residents. Over $300 million was paid by Councils last year with only 18% returned to support waste and recycling programs.

Recent garbage bin audits by Council show that 17% of the contents was recyclable packaging that should have been placed in the recycling bin. This could be due to a lack of capacity in the recycling bin. Council does provide the opportunity to upsize to a larger 360 litre bin with  50% more space for a small one off administration fee.

Some recycling bins contain non-accepted product which should have been disposed of by other means. This could include hazardous products which may pose a safety risk to sorting staff or damage sorting machinery.

In order to ensure workers safety, the recycling bins are checked prior to collection so as to identify those bins which pose a risk. Such bins are tagged and not collected until the following fortnight when the offending product has been removed.

The top 10 offending products are garbage, disposable nappies, textiles, styrofoam, wrong plastics, plastic bags, scrap metal, building waste, window glass and food waste.

Council have a comprehensive recycling A – Z guide of accepted products. If its not on the list it is not accepted. Non-accepted product is called contamination. Such product slows down the sorting process, ads to collection costs and impacts on the ability to recycle the end product. Companies who recycle old packaging into new products require clean sorted material free of contamination.

Council spokesperson, David Simm said “Residents and businesses continue to be very supportive of the service, but there is room for improvement. We need to get the recyclables out of the general waste and into the recycling bin and the wrong products out of the recycling bin.”