A review by Nadia Dawson of a presentation entitled Recycling facts and fiction – how your bin can save the world by Martyn Fuller, Director of Marketing for Veolia.

After a brief outline of his career progression, Martyn gave us some background information on Veolia which has French roots and a very broad company portfolio of waste collection services around the world. In the UK, most people associate Veolia with the emptying of their bins however, they are actually very actively involved with activities in the three main service and utility areas traditionally managed by public authorities ie water, waste management and energy services.

Some examples of little-known actualities about Veolia’s diverse range of services in the UK include the fact that the clean, green and sustainable energy created from their management of the un-recyclable waste collected in Sheffield actually provides heat to over 125 of the city’s buildings including the university, leisure facilities, hospitals and households. Their control of the waste management system at Lincoln Hospital ensures the provision of all its lighting, heating and hot water and, the plastic tarpaulin that covered the grass at last year’s FA cup final was made from rubbish recycled by Veolia.

Having made members aware of the wide-ranging variety of services Veolia are involved in, Martyn then referred to everybody’s current bug bear which is why some residents in West Lindsey are not getting their blue bins emptied.

The recently enacted Environment Act 2021 states that recycling streams should be collected separately so, in order to achieve the national targets for recycling, we are being asked to increase the quantity of material that can be recycled by putting the “Right Thing in the Right Bin”; this will ensure that more items are successfully recycled back into products that can be reused. In WL, the ‘old’ method for collecting recycling (all in the blue bin) meant that the vast majority of any paper and card was often contaminated and prone to becoming damp, wet and stained. By collecting it separately in the purple lidded bin, it will now be kept clean and dry so it can be recycled, baled and sold. The current price for a ton of recycled paper and card is between £80 and £90 so it is to our benefit that we put the “Right Thing in the Right Bin” because, once collected, it is sent directly to a dedicated paper mill in Kings Lynn and Lincolnshire County Council receive an income from it.

For obvious reasons then, Veolia cannot empty bins that contain the wrong materials so, if you place paper and card into your blue bin it will not be emptied because it becomes contaminated. Paper and card will now only be accepted in the purple-lidded bin and your blue bin will be tagged and not emptied until you have removed the items not suitable for recycling.

Veolia will be working with us to make sure that we get it right because this is all about us doing the right thing to help protect the environment for the future. The money that Lincolnshire recoup from these financial efficiencies will be ploughed back into waste services for everyone in Lincolnshire so eventually we will all benefit and, by using a specialist paper company, we can reduce the number of miles paper and cardboard travels before being fully recycled, and our carbon footprint. By reducing the contamination in the rest of the recycling, this process also becomes more efficient both economically and environmentally and, the separate collections with the new service means there is no increase to our carbon footprint, as the same number of lorries are collecting recycling so there is no increased mileage.

When it is all properly explained, it all makes perfect sense however, as Martyn pointed out, although Veolia are trying to make the system uniform, the different councils are causing unnecessary chaos because they do not have a common policy for bin colours. Why is it that one area has green bins for compost whereas another has brown? This doesn’t make any sense at all and needs to be addressed as soon as possible; in the meantime, Veolia will continue to endeavour to get more material recycled if you put plastic bottles, tubs and cartons, glass bottles and jars and metal cans and tins in your blue bin and all dry paper and card in the purple lidded one.

About Nadia Dawson

Retired primary headteacher now working at Lincoln University
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