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Preventing contamination

By using services correctly you can help the environment by diverting waste from landfill, and using resources more sustainably

Contamination is basically the wrong materials in the wrong bin. Putting the wrong items in the wrong bin causes recyclable material to become contaminated, and can lead to it being rejected by our re-processor, and ultimately ending up in landfill. This is why we try to ensure that everybody understands how the kerbside collection scheme works and how to use it properly.

Which materials are classified as contamination?

Contamination can be anything from small items such as sweet wrappers, plastic bags or glass bottles, to larger items items such as polystyrene, nappies, textiles or packaging covered in food waste.

Do not put the following items in your blue bin: 

  • plastic film, polythene or crisp packets
  • carrier bags or black bags;
  • foil or biscuit or food wrappers
  • food or greasy pizza boxes and other recyclates covered in food 
  • clothes, shoes and other textiles
  • cleaning cloths or wipes
  • face masks, gloves or nappies
  • animal bedding or waste
  • photographs
  • gas canisters
  • hard plastic toys or garden furniture
  • car parts or scrap metal
  • glass
  • polystyrene

Information on what can and cannot be recycled in your kerbside bins can also be found on the blue and brown bin pages.

Why is contamination a problem?

When a bin is contaminated it not only spoils the work of other residents who have been using the service correctly, but also puts the Council at risk of having to pay significant penalties to the reprocessor. 

In addition, contamination is bad for the environment and the public purse. When contamination is below an agreed level, it can be removed from the material and sent for energy recovery (incineration). If a load however is refuse due to contamination, the Council must pay for all of it to be disposed of (at typical load would be about 6 tonnes), as well as compensate the reprocessor for any lost revenue due to material loss.

By disposing of contaminated material, you are also taking away the ability for that item to be recycled in to something else. Not only is this unsustainable, but comes with massive carbon costs for extracting virgin raw resources from our planet to make items from new.

If you place the wrong materials such as plastics, metals or glass into your brown food and garden waste bin, this will impact the ability to compost that load. Similarly to the blue bin, these contaminant materials that could have been recycled elsewhere, will be landfilled. If you place materials such as soil or stones into your brown-lidded bin, then this too is treated as contamination. These materials are classed as "inert", which means they cannot break down any further. If they are passed through the composting process, they can significantly slow down, and even stop other materials from being composted.

Recycling the right materials in the right bin is one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact on climate change at home.

What can I do to prevent contamination?

If you are unsure about which materials you can recycle at the kerbside, please visit the kerbside bins page for more information and clarification.

Always try to give your blue bin materials a quick rinse before placing them into your recycling bin. This will lower the risk of food or drinks contaminating other materials in your bin. More importantly, a quick rinse can stop your recycling bin from smelling of food residues.

Where possible, try to present your bin on the morning of collection rather than the night before. A common contamination complaint from householders is that people passing by are placing the wrong materials into their recycling bins resulting in bins not being uplifted by crews due to visible contamination.

Please remember we are here to help you get it right. You can the Waste Team on the details below if you require any further assistance.

Last modified on 09 February 2023

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