Simply does it: how to be a record-breaker

If you make it easy for householders to recycle, then participation rates will rise.
That's what North Kesteven found as it rose to the top of the recycling league

Keeping it simple is at the heart of North Kesteven District Council’s approach when it comes to household recycling – a strategy that has seen the council set a new national record with a recycling rate of 51.1%.

North Kesteven has been working with waste management firm Mid UK Recycling over the past five years to develop a successful scheme which has gone out of its way to make it as easy as possible for householders to participate in recycling their waste.

Chris Mountain, managing director of Mid UK Recycling, explains: “From the early stages of developing North Kesteven’s system, we regarded consumer compliance as key to success in household recycling. The more sorting consumers have to do, the lower the rate of compliance.”

The council operates a three wheeled bin system across its catchment area of 45,000 households. One bin takes all household items including glass, plastics, cardboard, paper, textiles, and metal cans so that residents don’t have to sort them into different bags or boxes. There is also a brown bin for organic and garden waste, and a green bin for waste to landfill.

Mountain says the simplicity of the system makes it easy for people to understand what material goes in what bin, and means there are minimal issues with contamination. Each bin has a capacity of 240 litres, and collections are operated on an alternate weekly basis.

The three bin system went live in 2004 and council collections are sent to Mid UK Recycling’s plant which automatically separates all the various materials, enabling the company to achieve a recycling rate of over 92.5% of everything processed on-site. The company currently handles around 100,000 tonnes of material a year.

Flexible sorting solution

Mountain claims his company’s facility is the only one outside London that can sort and recycle from a three bin system. “It is the total and varied mix that makes it unique,” he says. “Alongside automated sorting for recyclables which takes all plastics, glass, metals, cans, aerosols, papers and cardboard, we also have an on-site composting operation for green waste.”

He adds that innovation is key to future success in recycling, as is partnership with local authorities and practical considerations of ease of compliance for all parties. “North Kesteven’s commitment to its recycling targets has been enormous and I congratulate them

“We have shown that a three bin system is the best – if other councils were to adopt a similar approach they could achieve similar results over a three-year period.”

Four years ago, the council’s recycling rate was in single figures and Councillor Dennis Roberts, executive board member for North Kesteven, says that the enthusiasm of the residents for the simple system ensured the scheme’s rapid success.

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