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Waste Centre Visit

Published Wednesday 20 December, 2023
Last updated on Thursday 22 February, 2024

Local councillors recently saw first-hand the issues recycling contamination can cause.  

Members of Swale Borough Council’s Waste Working group visited Crayford Material Recycling Facility (MRF) and Sittingbourne’s Church Marshes transfer station to see how the borough’s waste is recycled.  

Cllr Rich Lehmann, Cllr Dolley Wooster, Cllr Angela Harrison and Cllr Elliott Jayes all visited the two sites on Tuesday 28 November.  

N+P’s Crayford MRF is one of the largest recycling facilities in Europe and processes around 330,000 tonnes of recycling per year, including Swale's.  

Kent County Council’s Church Marshes transfer station is where the waste trucks from the borough drop off the household waste and recycling materials collected from Swale's residents. Each waste type is placed in separate areas of the transfer station and then taken to treatment facilities further afield. The dry (blue bin) recycling is sent to Crayford.

During the visit councillors saw for themselves the three most common contaminants in dry recycling: food waste, textiles and sanitary products such as nappies.  

Putting these items into your dry recycling can cause the whole lorry load of waste to be rejected and incinerated, instead of being recycled. Food waste should go in your food caddy and textiles can be recycled elsewhere, but not in the blue bin. Sanitary products such as nappies, pads and tampons are not recyclable and should be disposed of in your general waste (green bin).

This negatively impacts the environment due to increased carbon emissions and is more expensive to be incinerated than recycled.  

The council is planning to be able to collect food waste weekly from every household, which will soon be required by law.  

The food waste collected by the council is turned into important fertilizers which farmers use to grow the food we consume.  

Food containers like jars, which are recyclable, should be emptied and cleaned out to help reduce the risk of food contaminating your recycling.

Textiles like clothes and linens are another common contaminator, they should not be placed in your recycling but rather collected separately or donated to charity if still in good condition.  

Black bags and plastic films should also not be placed in your recycling as it cannot be picked up by the sensors in the recycling facility.  

If you are unsure of what goes in your bins you can use our handy tool to check.

Rich Lehmann, Chair of the environment committee, said:  

“The visit to these sites was definitely an eye opener for myself and my fellow councillors.  

“It was amazing to see the waste recycling process from beginning to end where it is prepared to be reused and get a new life as a recycled product.  

“But it was also very disappointing to see the quantity of non-recyclable waste coming from our community.

“Nappies, food, black bags and clothes were all present in the loads we saw, sadly this can cause the whole lot to be rejected and incinerated.

“We saw people were clearly trying their best to recycle correctly, with compressed cardboard, cleaned containers and plenty of recyclable plastic.

“Unfortunately, it just takes a few households putting inappropriate items in their dry recycling for the efforts of others to be wasted.

“Food waste is a particular problem; it spreads and contaminates so much of the dry recycling - we saw wine from a smashed bottle soaking through reams of newspaper which makes it unrecyclable.

“We offer a separate weekly food waste collection, and we encourage as many people as possible to take advantage of it.  

“It is incredibly important that we as a community recycle correctly, not only does it help save the environment, but it also makes the waste removal service more financially sustainable.  

“If you aren’t sure what can be recycled, search “what goes in my bin” on our website.

“If we all work together and use our bins correctly, we can improve our borough’s recycling rate and make a large dent in our impact on the environment.”

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