Used nappies, colostomy bags and maggot covered food are just some of the non-recyclable items staff at Hamilton’s recycling sorting centre sift through every day by hand.
Hamilton’s Materials Resource Facility, otherwise known as a recycling sorting centre, is where Hamiltonians’ recycling goes to be separated before being sent to various recycling centres.
Often, yellow recycling bins are contaminated with non-recyclables. In some cases, the contents are so contaminated the entire truck it’s emptied in to, will head straight to landfill, wasting all the other recyclables in the process.
Gloved hands wade through massive amounts of recycling and non-recyclables to ensure only the right items are being processed for recycling.
Trent Fowles, Council's Resource Recovery Delivery Manager, said recycling was an important part of how we reduce waste going to landfill.
“Our award-winning kerbside service makes it possible for residents to participate in fighting the landfill.
“Unfortunately, many recycling bins are being treated as landfill bins and it's not fair on the people who have to sort through the contents. A contaminated bin also results in recyclables being sent to landfill.”
Recycling bins should only include clean plastics labelled 1-7, rinsed tins and cans and clean paper and cardboard.
Clean plastics labelled 1-7, rinsed tins, cans, paper and cardboard, as well as small electronics, batteries and food waste can be dropped off for free at the Lincoln Street Resource Recovery Centre.
Fowles said each week up to 500 recycling bins across the city receive a red tag, indicating it contains non-recyclables. The bin won’t be collected until the non-recyclables have been removed. If a bin receives three red tags within three months, the bin will be removed from the property the next time it is put on the kerbside and the resident will lose the service. There is a charge to get the bin back.
“It’s one way we can help prevent some of the contamination from heading to the sorting centre, but really it’s the resident’s responsibility to ensure what they are putting into their yellow bin is recyclable.”
Fowles said he encourages everyone to consider a few steps to recycling correctly.
“Wash it – recycling isn’t washed at the sorting centre, that’s our job. Think about it – is it actually recyclable and if in doubt keep it out. Learn about it – If you aren’t sure if it can be recycled, use the bin sorter on our fight the landfill website or ask us through Facebook Messenger, we are always happy to help. Finally, fight for it, we are creating a huge problem for our children to solve. Is that the legacy we want to leave behind?
“Make sure the whole family knows the red bin is for rubbish and the yellow bin is for recycling. The decisions we all make have a big impact.”
Want to see the bigger picture? Check out our video for a behind the scenes look at the recycling sorting centre.