Contamination costs West Norfolk Council six-figure sums

The council, in conjunction with Norfolk County Council, wants to prevent items such as nappies, textiles and an axe, which have all been rejected materials in the past, being put into green bins by residents.

The level of rejected materials is expected to be around five per cent or less, but it is currently (as measured by weight on incoming loads) at about 14 per cent, which is costing Norfolk County Council about £200,000 per year.

This is creating pressure on the recycling work stream, said West Norfolk Council’s waste and recycling manager Barry Brandford.

Mr Brandford said he is hoping to create some behavioural change in the community to “persuade residents to manage their waste in a more sustainable manner”.

Around 400,000 nappies are present on the mixed paper line of the recycling facility each year, according to recent survey work by officers from across Norfolk.

Mr Brandford said: “It is somebody’s job to pick these off the belt before they end up in the paper system – which is the final clean up process before the paper is baled.”

He added that if a nappy is found in an inspection – which are undertaken at least every 28 days – the ability to export the paper to the destinations providing greatest value is blocked and they have to find an alternative destination.

Due to this, the borough and county councils are working with together with other councils in the county and Norfolk Waste Partnership and are looking into options to help prevent waste contamination.

The Local Green Points scheme was launched in May this year which aims to provide community rewards to the members of the community who recycle well and avoid contamination.

As well as promoting behavioural change, they are also considering sharing facilities (where councils could share depots etc), reviewing recycling materials list (to see what could be added to it) and reviewing how waste is collected.

One such idea is that nappies could be collected separately or that families with children could be given additional bins to ensure they have enough space in these facilities for nappies.

The council also inspects bins routinely, and often replaces green bins with clear sacks when residents have been found to have contaminate bins, so that it is less likely for them to hide items which are not recyclable in their bins.

Mr Brandford said: “If I see a bin which contains a huge amount of dog hair and dog mess, that’s getting a bit much. There comes a point when we have to intervene. It’s a small proportion of people, but a significant problem.”

Executive director Chris Bamfield said: “We can only do so much to encourage people. When dealing with contamination, we have to take some kind of action.”