Consumer Recycling Error Costs U.K. Taxpayers More Than $17 Million

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The Daily Telegraph reported April 22 that official government figures confirm its recent survey that found household waste put out for recycling is being dumped into landfills, costing taxpayers more than $17 million every year. The reason? Residents are contaminating their recycling bins with unsuitable items such as food scraps and diapers.

Some food-based products can contaminate recyclable material, resulting in landfill disposal. Photo: Arbroath.blogspot.com

It's up to the consumer to separate products that can contaminate recyclable material. Photo: Arbroath.blogspot.com

In 2008, almost 230,000 tons of recyclable waste was dumped in a landfill in the U.K. While this accounts for only 1 percent of total recycling, the problem is worse in other areas, and more than 20 percent of glass, paper, plastic and other materials left out for recycling are ending up in landfills.

According to Jess Ross, editor of Which.co.uk, areas with a “co-mingled system,” where councils collect materials to be recycled in one bag and sort it at a processing plant, are experiencing the worst of the problems. Neighborhoods with curbside recycling programs have lower contamination rates.

Ross says the solution to the problem is educating consumers about proper disposal. For example, mixing food-based substances with some recyclable materials often contaminates the product.

With growing accessibility to programs in both the U.K. and the U.S., recycling is becoming easier. But consumers should still be aware of those tricky materials and how they can be disposed of properly.

“Recycling our household waste has never been easier, but more could be done by councils and by consumers to ensure that we recycle more waste, more effectively,” Ross says. “Not only will it reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, but it could even save us money on our council tax bills – which is a great incentive to recycle better.”

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