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Think before you throw – contamination rises as COVID continues

As lockdown continues, life at the MRF carries on as we do our best to keep the recycling sector and economy moving amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Great numbers of people are following the government’s rules and remain at home, but during this time the Casepak MRF team has recorded an upwards trend in non-recyclable material entering the MRF, resulting in loads of otherwise good material being rejected and sent back to local authorities.

Whilst contamination is an issue that we have always faced, even before the Coronavirus pandemic hit, it’s an issue that has been heightened as a result of it.

We are seeing a high number of rogue materials entering the recycling stream. Approximately 300 tonnes of material was rejected by the MRF in April alone, and we are already seeing the number of rejected loads rise in the first week of May.

It’s an issue we are seeing across the board. The quality of material that comes from local authorities is declining, as more of us stay home, eat and drink at home and spend time clearing out our houses getting those jobs done we don’t manage to do under normal circumstances. We are all naturally going to create more waste material, but we need to be conscious that not all materials are currently recyclable.

Indeed, last month I wrote about the increase in fly-tipping incidents across the county, likely due to people spending time at home and ‘having a clear out’, but unable to get to Household Waste and Recycling Centres because of the temporary closures in place. As I write this blog, we are waiting to see how and when these centres can safely reopen. Once they do, it will surely ease the pressure on local authorities and the police having to deal with waste items dumped in the countryside.

At the MRF, we’ve seen an increase in general household waste mixed in with recyclables. We’ve also seen hard plastics such as children’s toys, garden waste, textiles and electrical items such as laptops!

The volume of material we are seeing is similar to other busy periods like Christmas and as people’s general black bag waste bins are often close to overflowing, non-recyclable material finds its way into the recycling stream.

What we need now is support to ease the pressure on MRFs up and down the country to ensure contamination rates are as low as possible and facilities are working to capacity.

How we’re working with local authorities to tackle this issue

We are asking crews to be more vigilant on rounds whilst being mindful that they do not put their own health or safety at risk. We have asked all councils Casepak works with to put out as much

communications as possible to their residents. Many of our local authority partners are communicating helpful tips on social media and on their websites.

With increased volumes of waste and recycling across the nation, quality of the material is more critical than ever. Rejections have a huge knock on effect to our floor space as we are required to hold this material for 24 hours for the council to inspect/confirm the rejection.

We want to thank the councils that are proactively supporting the contamination awareness campaign, but also ask everyone to think before they throw. If you’ve had a clear out, please try and keep excess material to one side instead of placing in the recycling. You’ll be helping to keep collection crews and MRF staff safe, as well as doing your bit for the environment.

Furthermore, to help Casepak to get the best out of materials we urge everyone to be extra careful with their recycling habits during the lockdown period. Also, to ensure that materials are clean and dry before being placed in the recycling bin and to avoid contaminating recycables with general waste. This in turn will help us to mitigate potential issues caused by pests as well as minimise contamination levels. Casepak’s Recycling Guide provides comprehensive information and advice about what can and cannot be recycled at the MRF.