The problem with waste contamination
19 Aug 2019
Contamination is the action of polluting a waste stream with anything that shouldn’t be there. This includes; general waste items going into a recycling bin, food and liquid waste and other potential issues including the presence of hazardous and clinical waste in none specialist bins.
This is usually a result of lack of knowledge around what items can and cannot be recycled and the lack of thought around the long process and lifecycle your waste items have yet to go through after being placed into a bin. This is one of the key reasons we work with each of the four universities in the East Midland’s Universities Waste Consortium to educate staff and students around recycling best practice and reducing contamination as much as possible.
Not only does contamination cost a waste contractor time and money to sort through and segregate the waste properly off-site but it can also result in some potentially recyclable items being missed, reducing the sustainability of the load.
For example, if someone puts a half empty coffee that has gone cold into a bin (a very common occurrence) or a half-eaten sandwich, this food and liquid waste residue will contaminate the rest of the waste. This means that any paper or card recyclable waste in the bin will soak up this residue and in turn, not have the potential to be recycled any more. Even recyclable plastic and metal waste covered in food waste will reduce in value and potentially cause vermin problems. This type of contamination can result in bales of waste being rejected by recycling companies due to the low quality and as a result can mean the whole bale is treated as general waste.