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Leeds Recycling Centres Make Huge Strides In Recycling

We all know that recycling is important, and that’s a big objective across the UK in creating a greener, more sustainable future. We often hear about reducing energy use and clean air zones to improve the nation’s health and environment, but it’s easy to miss the obvious link between good waste management and reducing the resources required to create what we buy in the shops.

An easy example to illustrate this is the use of cardboard in product packaging and for deliveries by companies like Amazon. We all know that paper and cardboard originate from the wood from trees, and we all accept that chopping down trees has had a huge environmental impact.

Laying this all out logically makes it fairly clear that recycling our delivery boxes and product packaging helps to reduce the number of trees that are felled in order to buy the items we want from the shops, whether that’s on the high street on online.

Where we do have a problem though, is in the messaging surrounding recycling services offered. Surveys show that significant numbers of households don’t recycle what they should do – and with something as simple as cardboard, less than half (42%) of those surveyed said that they regularly break down their cardboard packaging and put it out to be collected.

What’s interesting is 86% of people consider themselves to be good at recycling, while at the same time over half of people – a whopping 53% of people admit to throwing waste into the bin rather than checking if it can be recycled from the same survey. Not exactly conclusive, is it?

We dug a little deeper into the story behind the headlines, and discovered that experts are broadly in agreement that the uptake and effort made into recycling is proportional to the clarity in the way the recycling services are presented.

In fact, in areas offering very few and basic services in kerbside recycling collections, uptake is likely to be better than in areas with more recycling channels operating, all else being equal.

The notable difference is in areas of London where regulations have been introduced to deter non-recycling behaviour, such as fining those households that make no effort to separate their waste, even after eductional interventions from local authorities.

We can use cardboard as an example, as it’s probably the most widely offered domestic recycling collection in the country, alongside plastic bottles, and metal cans.

Where there’s a simple bin offered for card and paper, residents understand exactly what can and cannot be placed into them, with a few minor errors like plastic film in cake boxes. That highlights the golden rule that recycling services need to follow – clarity is key.

We spoke to Liam Gifford, a former bin man who now works on recycling initiatives in the Yorkshire and Humberside region. He also operates the rather amusingly titled Rubbish Site in his spare time, helping to raise awareness of waste and recycling issues facing UK residents, councils and environmental groups.

Gifford is passionate about recycling, but in a way that differs from enviropnmental activists that you see on the news. His face lights up talking about the vast improvements in recycling in the region, meaning less waste gets incinerated or buried than ever before. He points to recycling initiatives in the nearby city of Leeds, who put a lot of effort into educating the population on how to use the local facilities to recycle more.

“People need to understand what they can recycle, where they can recycle and the difference it makes” says Gifford. He continues “Leeds just labelled recycle bins with simple messaging like ‘Empty cans and empty bottles, nowt else’ and that’s clear as day to people walking past. The need to be told clearly, and when they understand what they have to do, they do it.”

It’s a powerful point he makes, let’s face it, we’ve all found ourselves wondering whether that plastic food tray that we put into the bin should have gone into recycling, or that yogurt pot that went in the recycling bin should have gone into the bin.

Gifford loves to educate anyone who will listen – and he’s got a few pet hates that really get him enthusiastically explaining the evils of the modern ways of life. “Coffee cups are everywhere and the big companies have been bullied into making them more recyclable. The trouble is, people are used to putting them in the general waste bins. That means they either need to be sorted at the depots, or they get missed and end up being incinerated in energy recovery plants.”

He points to work done at the Leeds Seacroft recycling centre. Part of the work done resulted in the simple messaging appearing on the recycling bins about empty cans and bottles. The reason for ‘nowt else’ being appended he continues, “gives the whole thing a local feeling. It makes it more Yorkshire!”.

Liam Gifford’s website rubbishsite.co.uk gives information targeted at residents in the UK to help them make better use of recycling services and reduce waste in households.

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