Lots of residents have queried recently that they are seeing Haringey bin men mixing recyclable materials together and also putting them into normal rubbish trucks.
Not surprisingly, this has raised some questions about what is happening!
Some of the news is reassuring. Because of the successes of campaigns from local groups and Lib Dem councillors to improve recycling in the borough, a wider range of materials is now being collected in many parts of the borough.
This means new vehicles are being used. Several new ones look much like normal refuse collection trucks. And, just to add to the fun – at times some normal refuse collection trucks are also being pressed into service to collect (just) recyclable materials.
Also, for many recycling collections, materials are not sorted out before being placed in the van. Rather they are all put in together and then sorted out at the recycling depot.
If you get excited about machinery (!) the way the materials are sorted out is very clever, using magnets, optical sensors, air jets, trommels and more. (The things I’ve learnt in recent months about recycling …!) The idea is to make the sorting more efficient and accurate than the old way.
There are questions about just how well the machinery works and how much actually gets recycled. Also, much of the paper and cardboard is being shipped out to China, with transport impacts on the environment. Glass is left too contaminated to be used for new glass, and instead is crushed and used as road aggregate – a big loss of energy.
My colleague Bob Hare (Lib Dem Environment spokesman) has visited the sorting plant in Kent and is investigating just how well the sorting works, how much waste is left over, what is going to China etc.
One thing this does reinforce is the importance of using goods made from recycled material (e.g. recycled paper) as far as possible. The bigger the market is, the more effort will go into recycling and the more that will be recycled within the UK without the need for exporting waste.
In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about other aspects of recycling in the borough, I’ve recently updated the recycling factsheet on my website (pdf format).