Recycling audit shows education is key

A Willoughby City Council, New South Wales (NSW), survey of resident’s bins has found plastic bags and soft plastic remain the most frequent contaminants in recycling bins.

As part of an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) funded check of randomly selected recycling bins, Council twice inspected the same 1,500 bins and found plastic bags, thin plastics (glad wrap, food wrappers), bagged recycling, tissues, napkins and textiles (clothes and shoes) to be the most common items that should not be in recycling bins.

Mayor, Gail Giles-Gidney, said, “What is positive is that when council officers spoke to householders, they were keen to improve and get their recycling on track.

“Many people said they just didn’t know they shouldn’t put their recycling in plastic bags, but our message is ‘keep it loose’ – your recyclable items need to go in the bin loose, not in plastic bags.

“Residents are keen to get on board with improving recycling and we have work to do as a council to ensure residents are informed about how best to recycle.”

In the first survey round in August, 227 bins contained items that were not recyclable. 

In the second round a month later, 262 bins had unsuitable items. 

A third and final audit of the same 1,500 bins began October 22.

Bins were given either a red or green tag, based on the inspection results, outlining which items were incorrect or congratulating the householder on their recycling.

University of NSW research found that three out of four people believe the contents of recycling bins isn’t being beneficially recycled, however at Willoughby all acceptable material is processed and recycled.