Waste not, want not… wheelie bins have changed the way we look at recycling
The controversial wheelie bin scheme has now been running for more than six months. Reporter VIKKI THOMAS went to see what happens to the recyclable waste when it is taken from the district
Think recycling and immediately most of us feel a twinge of guilt. We know we could do more of it, but seem to get round to rinsing out the tin cans, reusing plastic bags or even giving composting a second thought.
But our laziness means that we each produce a shocking half a tonne of rubbish each year, which has a huge impact upon the environment.
Now the recycling team at Mole Valley is working to change people’s lifestyle habits.
The council must up its recycling rate to 36 per cent next year if it is to meet its government set target.
But since the introduction of a wheelie bin scheme, the authority is now on course to meet that figure.
Although many of the district’s residents were, concerned about the arrival of the green and black plastic bins, Steve Strickland, waste strategy manager at the council, said most people are now happy to use them.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who say they wouldn’t be without their bins now,” he said. “and we’ve seen recycling go up by about 20 per cent." The bins were distributed in February this year to 6,500 properties in the district.
The Advertiser received many letters about the scheme; mostly from people who wanted to recycle more but were concerned the bins were not the best solution.
"I did understand people's concerns about the trial," Mr Strickland said, "But there were good reasons why we opted for the wheelie bin scheme."
He said the bins are safe containers because wildlife, particularly foxes, and pets can’t get into them.
"They're also easier to move and lighter to lift to the roadside compared to the plastic boxes."
"And they're easier for the refuse collectors too,'” he added.
Many of the concerned letters addressed to the Advertiser came from people who felt the bins could prove "unhygienic" throughout the summer months.
They feared that because the bins would only be collected on a fortnightly basis, bacteria would lead to a build up of smells and eventually cause health complaints.'
But Mr Strickland said residents had no reason to worry.
He said: "We've been told by environmental health that there is no evidence to suggest this is a problem.
"As long as the waste is bagged properly, the smell will be minimised."
Sorting through a collection from a Dorking household who are not part of the trial proved interesting.
Sifting through rotten baguettes and bags of rubbish, Mr Strickland pointed out a pile of waste, which could have been recycled.
It looked as though a quarter of what the family had discarded could have been put into a green wheelie bin if they had been part of the trial "There's only glass bottle here," said Mr Strickland, "So that's good news."
"But I’m concerned there is wasted food here. Obviously that was bought for the purpose of being eaten but its just been thrown out.
"Food gives off methane, so we need people to start thinking more about only buying what they need and will use."
When the recyclable waste is collected from Mole Valley it is taken to Colnbrook, a materials recovery facility (MRF) in Slough.
A new site is being constructed in Randalls Road, Leatherhead, for another MRF and Mr Strickland hopes waste will be going into the plant from April 2005 onwards.
Once the waste gets to the MRF, it is sorted for recycling.
Mr Strickland and Paul Faulkner, area sales manager for Grundon, the company, which runs the Colnbrook plant said the waste, goes down a grade when it becomes a new product.
"There are lots of different grades on paper," said Mr Faulkner.
“As with cardboard, it may become corrugated as a recycled product.
"By recycling, these products stay in the system longer."
Mr Strickland and Mr Faulkner explained the wheelie bin scheme will prompt residents to think more about recycling.
“For people who haven’t before, they'll begin to start thinking about what they throw away," they said.
"They’ll start looking at newspapers and junk mall."
"There are five landfill sites in the county and two have had to close because they're full up.
"What we're trying to do is get people thinking about their lifestyles," said Mr Strickland.
Reduce, re-use, recycle your waste
Tips for recycling – recommended by Steve Strickland, waste strategy manager at Mole Valley Council
· Choose products with less packaging, buy loose items, concentrates and refills
· Re-use plastic shopping bags
· Stop junk mail by writing direct to:
The Mail Preference Service,
FREEPOST 22, London W1E
· Return refillable bottles
· Re-use carrier bags as bin liners
· Send unwanted clothes or toys to charity shops, art and craft material to a school or playground
· Use scrap paper for shopping lists and messages
· Ask Mole Valley council about recycling facilities
· Find out if supermarkets offer recycling schemes for plastic carrier and spectacles
· Find out if there is a local group
collecting items for charity – stamps, old tools, bicycles and computer printer cartridges
· Buy recycled products to make recycling viable
· Recycle this newspaper when you have finished reading it