Contaminated recycling increases waste to landfill

Contaminated glass recycling in the Central Otago District is increasing the amount of waste going to landfill.

Central Otago District Council (CODC) has spent the last 18 months looking at efficient ways to recycle increasing quantities of glass from its growing population. Environmental Engineering Manager Peter Greenwood said prior to February 2018 CODC was sending all glass recycling to an external crushing plant.

“This became unsustainable for the crushing plant which was literally sending truckloads of glass to landfill because of the high levels of contamination. In other words, it still had food or other general waste present so could not be mixed with clean glass for crushing.”

In July 2018, in response to a consultation with residents, the frequency of yellow bin collections was increased. This resulted in less contamination of the glass initially, but recent testing has shown that contamination levels are still too high for glass to be accepted for a planned crushing trial.

“There are still people in our community who don’t appreciate the gravity of this issue,” said Greenwood. “We need everyone to commit to playing their part to ensure that they clean their glass thoroughly and place their items in the correct bins. When this is not done, it simply undermines the efforts of everyone else who does care about glass recycling. Badly contaminated glass bottles and jars, such as those with liquid or food residue, can also contaminate other containers. Containers should be cleaned and lids should be removed before being recycled.

“As a council we know that education is the key to better recycling. Over the next few months we will be rolling out some short educational videos, social media prompts and hard copy brochures so that we can reach everyone in our community in the way that works best for them,” Greenwood said.

“It is a catch 22 because we need lower contamination levels before we can feasibly send our glass to be recycled, but we understand that those who do clean their glass items and put them into the correct bin have an expectation that they will be recycled.

“We know how important recycling is to the majority of people in our district and we also know that ratepayers trust us to spend their money wisely. We are working to come up with a solution to glass recycling that is environmentally responsible but also cost effective. The community can help by reminding their neighbours that correctly recycling each and every glass item counts.”

Here are some tips for glass recycling: recycle only bottles and jars; take the lids off bottles and jars; no light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, cookware, drinking glasses, window or mirror glass.


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