With challenges around China and Indonesia rejecting recycling waste, it is still upon us all to maintain our recycling habits so that we are ready for any improvements that may come to the waste industry.
Most people are familiar with the word “contamination”. Although few residents may associate the word with the household waste they dump every day into their recycling or organic rubbish bins. More than ever, having no contamination in your recycling and organic bins is critical if these resources are to be recycled or processed for beneficial reuse.
Contamination strikes fear into the souls of those charged with safely and efficiently managing the thousands of tonnes of waste that a town or city may produce each day. Contaminating your recycling bin with general garbage can deem the whole bin unacceptable for processing into recycled products. The amount of recyclable materials unnecessarily lost to landfill can add up to thousands of tonnes each year.
The good news is the issue of contamination can be vastly improved with a little public education and knowledge. The points below seek to help you, the resident or business owner, make informed decisions when utilising your recycling bins.
What exactly is waste contamination? Specifically we refer to the misappropriation of general waste into either the recycling bin or Green Organics bin, as contamination.
We also refer to contamination as items which have not been sufficiently rinsed or separated from the recyclable product, such as left over food in bottles, or recyclable items left inside plastic bags. A good common example is local newspapers delivered in a soft plastic sleeve, when the sleeve is not removed before disposal. When a resident disposes of recyclable waste into their (usually) yellow lidded recycle bin, any component other than the recyclable item itself constitutes a contamination event.
Even items typically classed as recyclable are considered and treated as contaminates if they are not properly prepared prior to disposal. The end result of contamination is a high likely-hood that the item is rejected by the recycling station and instead goes into landfill, which is a lost opportunity to recycle, and an increased cost to the community.
Any recyclables that contain left over food, oils, or grease (unless directed otherwise by your local council) should be considered as contaminants, and not disposed into the recycling waste stream.
Recycling is relevant to all Australians, and indeed across the globe. When the ratios of waste to recyclables is too high, it put’s more pressure on the sorting processes increasing time and labour costs. This puts the recycling centre under pressure to send the entire load to landfill. The breaking point for that decision depends on the rate of contamination, and available resources. Typically most recycling centres have a low tolerance for sorting. Like any business they need to sell the product to stay in business. Like any other business, costs need to be managed, including the cost of sorting contaminates out of recyclables. Adelaide rubbish dumps or transfer stations and indeed all Australian rubbish tips, hold a level of complexity to manage which is not immediately noticeable to the residents.
Recycling and sorting machines are specialised equipment of which repairs can be expensive. Plastic bags can wrap around and become lodged on moving parts resulting in higher costs to the recycling centre and additional time and effort for sorting staff who have to pull contaminates out of the machinery. As costs begin to tally the time available for sorting lessens. The Value of recyclable materials Apart from the obvious environmental benefits of recycling, the saleable commodities in your recycling waste carry a marketable value which underpins the success of the entire recycling operation. Each time a contamination event occurs, the overall value of the product is diminished or completely destroyed. This reduces the business benefits, and the recycling initiative in your local region could suffer. Indeed education is a key factor, and the decisions residents make has a huge impact on the success of the recycling business overall.
Fortunately there is hope through waste education! The main steps for you to take are as follows: