A lively forum was organised by the Greater Reading Environmental Network (GREN) with support from RNN, with the aim of looking into Reading’s recycling successes and challenges. The event was attended by councillors, council officers and members of GREN and Reading Neighbourhood Network (RNN).
There was a presentation on how the recycling system works and a video of material collected for recycling being sorted at Smallmead to separate out useful materials for industry. This produces high quality materials from loose paper, cardboard, cans (including aerosols) and plastic bottles, but other materials, such as glass and other plastics, have to be rejected to avoid contamination.
Reading’s kerbside collection of ‘Mixed Dry Recyclables’ (MDR) has shown a weak falling trend, partly explained by industry changes to reduce the weight of packaging, and partly by the recession. There is currently a reduction in recycling of newspapers but more cardboard is being received. Materials wanted via kerbside collection are paper & cardboard, plastic bottles, tins and empty aerosols.
Contamination of kerbside collection is an important problem – it increases costs of sorting and means that some recyclable material goes to landfill. Key contaminants are improperly presented recyclable material such as tied bundles of newspaper or items tied up in plastic carrier bags; plastic pots, film, trays and bags; metals; food; textiles; and other general waste.
Discussion then took place on how the rate of recycling could be improved and contamination rates reduced. Reading Borough Council is already undertaking a block-by-block scheme to help residents in flats to recycle and to educate them on the facilities available and how to use them. It was noted that glass recycling in Reading is at around 95%, meaning that kerbside glass collections are not going to be cost-effective (and in fact are more likely to cause contamination problems for other recyclable materials). At the Smallmead recycling facility there are already schemes to give reusable goods and paint to charities.
Ideas for improvement included targeting letting agents, multilingual leaflets, better bin labelling in blocks of flats and promotion of local recycling events such as the Repair Cafe, Freegle and Freecycle.
The full report from the event can be downloaded here:
GREN RNN Recycling Meeting Report