Day 4 – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Types of Waste
All week, we’ve been exploring Zero Waste behaviours, looking at ways to keep items out of the waste stream. It’s not always possible to avoid waste altogether, so today we’re talking about what happens to the waste we do produce.
For the DWP Estate, we provide a Dry Mixed Recycling (DMR) collection, and a General Waste collection. DMR bins are for all clean, dry plastic, cardboard and tins. Unfortunately we can’t put glass in these bins, so we can’t recycle glass except on some sites where there is a dedicated glass bin for the catering team. All paper is collected separately in the confidential waste sacks, as required by our contract with DWP, before being shredded and recycled. Cardboard is not collected separately.
A couple of posters with more details about what can/can’t go into DMR and General Waste bins are attached
All these items are taken to recycling centres where they are sorted, either by hand or by machine, and mixed with other business waste before being baled with waste of the same material so it can be recycled.
Any contamination from food grease, wet paper towels or other non-recyclable material affects the quality of the waste we are sending for recycling and may mean that other waste in that bin or bag cannot be recycled. It’s really important to be responsible recyclers and only put these materials in the DMR bins, and then only if they are clean and dry. It’s also why we insist on clear plastic bags for DMR so that cleaners and waste carriers can easily see that they contain only recyclate, and put them in the correct outside bin.
Anything else, including wet paper towels, tissues, coffee cups, crisp packets or any packaging that cannot be clean and dry such as greasy cardboard takeaway containers
should go into the general waste. This ends up in a number of different places, depending on where you are in the UK. In most cases it goes to a Material Recovery Facility, to be sorted so that anything recyclable can be extracted. The bulk of what is left either goes to an Energy From Waste plant where it is incinerated and the heat from that process is converted into energy which goes to the National Grid; or it is exported as “refuse-derived fuel” (RDF) and incinerated for energy recovery in Europe.
From the process of sorting this waste a residual amount will be left behind and this ends up in landfill. Landfill is also the fate of all general waste in some parts of the country where material recovery is not an available option.
Currently, 62% of the waste that Interserve and our supply chain process on behalf of DWP is recycled, with 29% going to Energy from Waste and 8% to landfill. Separately collected food waste accounts for 1% - more on that tomorrow.
Unless otherwise stated, data and statistics are taken from HM Government’s “Our Waste, Our Resources: a Strategy for
England (2018) and “UK Statistics on Waste” published by DEFRA and Government Statistical Service, March 2019.
There are some types of waste which cannot go in either of these bins and needs to be collected separately. This includes electronic equipment, hazardous waste such as batteries, light bulbs, aerosols, tins of paint or other chemicals which aren’t quite empty, and bulky items like furniture.
For any of these waste streams, the process is to raise a New Works Order with details of what needs to be collected, and we can obtain a price to remove them. Before taking that step though, have a look at some of the reuse projects we mentioned on Monday in case the items can be saved from the waste stream.
We are working with DWP to make these messages clear to DWP staff through their intranet and Environmental Champions. It also helps to have clear labelling on internal waste bins – as per the attached posters. Please ask your manager if you require copies of these.
What can I do about this?
Household waste recycle rates have risen from around 11% in 2001 to 45% but have plateaued in the last decade. Unfortunately different local authorities have different rules about what they can and can’t take, usually because of the local recycling facilities and processes which can be really confusing.
Wherever you are, it is important to be aware of what can and can’t go in each bin. If it’s not obvious, you can check the local authority’s waste and recycling web pages. Take care to separate things and to rinse or wipe them clean so they don’t affect the recyclability of other items they are stored with.
Some supermarkets offer recycling points for items which we can’t recycle at the kerbside. Textiles, batteries, glass, carrier bags are commonly collected and there are even some trials for recycling so called “crunch” plastics like crisp packets that haven’t been widely recycled before. Look out for what’s being collected in your local area.
…and of course, in the spirit of Zero Waste week, the best thing you can do to help reduce the environmental impact of your waste is to avoid waste in the first place:
Choose rechargeable batteries
Hire tools and equipment rather than buying them
Get things repaired before replacing them
Donate clothes you no longer wear to charity or sell them on ebay, rather than throw them away.