Week 5 - Blog

Find out what you can and can’t recycle and how to reduce what you send to landfill

Find out what you can and can’t recycle and how to reduce what you send to landfill Contaminated recycling bins remain a problem

Ever wonder where your recycling items go? What uses the plastic bottles, the cardboard boxes and the newspapers you put in your green bin are put to?

This week Green Aware Sligo will fill in those gaps for you, as well as remind you of what items can and can’t be recycled. There are plenty of things that end up in our recycling bins which can’t be recycled and need to be re-sorted by teams of people at centres around the country – more of that shortly.

The Barna recycling facility just outside of Galway city is where most of this region’s recycling waste is sorted prior to export. Enormous sheds housing scores of people, machinery and sorting stations are assembled. The teams spend the day sorting through recyclable waste, as different recycling streams require different processes before they can re-enter the production system.

At present, most paper, plastic and metals are sorted at Barna before being shipped across to various locations in the UK, as well as other European countries like Holland and Spain, and even further afield to countries such as Indonesia and Thailand. The markets for these waste streams are constantly changing – China has recently announced that it won’t accept this waste any more, and further pressures on this sector are expected in the months ahead.

We like to think that by using our recycling bin at home, all of the items in it will find a use in the future, but unfortunately this is not the case. Not only is the market constantly changing – as per the China case mentioned above, but we, as consumers, buy far too much food produce, in particular, in plastic packaging, which may or may not be recyclable at present.

Currently, rigid plastics, cardboard, newspapers, magazines, beverage cans and tins are among the many items that can be recycled – the full list is on our website. The rule of thumb is that these items need to be clean, dry and loose, so ensure that you’ve rinsed the above to remove any food waste, and let them dry before you flatten them and place them into the recycling bin.

According to Barna, one of the key problems they encounter is contaminated recycling – so some people are ignoring the message to ensure their recyclable items are cleaned properly beforehand. If, for example, you have a pizza box which has food contamination, this item cannot go in to your recycling bin, instead it must go to landfill.

Other items that shouldn’t make it into your recycling bin include styrofoam, batteries, wet paper, tin foil or tissue paper. However, you can bring certain items like styrofoam and batteries to one of the civic amenity sites where they can accept them. Again, you’ll find guidance on this on the website.

So to a few things we could all do easily: When shopping, don’t assume that your plastics can or will all be recycled. If you can, don’t buy your vegetables in the plastic bags provided by the supermarket, these cannot be recycled. Instead keep them loose in your basket. Also, don’t buy coffee and tea in a take away cup, unless it’s marked as compostable. And above all, ensure that your recycling bin contains only items that are recyclable – a printable version of these items can be downloaded from our website – and that all of these items are clean, dry and loose prior to their disposal.

Visit www.sligococo.ie/greenaware for more details.