Do you recycle these unusual suspects?

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Normally I’m out and about helping residents all over the Borough, but as I had a few days holiday this week and I thought I’d better clean up my own house. It’s looking quite the mess with the whole family being home for the summer holidays.

But I wasn’t walking around filling up black bin bags all day. There are so many things in our homes that can be recycled and I thought I’d tell you about a few of the more unusual ones we found.

We all know about the basics: plastic drinks bottles, cardboard boxes and glass, but you might be surprised at a few of the things you see every day that can be recycled too.

Shampoo and cleaning bottles are a great example. Just wash them out and they can go straight into your clear recycling bag with your plastic drinks bottles. Glass sauce jars, perfume bottles and beauty cream pots are just the same as jam jars and glass bottles and can be recycled in your green box. Cardboard is everywhere, especially when you’re looking for it. Don’t throw away the boxes for toothpaste and batteries, toilet rolls and even chocolates, they can all be recycled in your clear recycling bags. Find out more about what can and can’t be recycled on our website.

There’s even more that can go to your local recycling centre, from aerosol cans to old tyres. Be sure to use our easy look up to find your local centre and what they recycle.

I’ve even been getting my son involved. We’ve signed up to take the Home Recycling Challenge on the Recycle Now website. He loves the Busta and Pong videos and he’s running around the house right now trying to find all sorts of cardboard and plastic so he can complete his Challenge poster sheet. There’s even the chance to win an iPad, exclusive Top Trumps or a Busta toy.

Finding and recycling these more unusual items from your home really makes a difference. Recycling just one fizzy drink can saves enough energy to power a television for around four hours and old plastic bottles can be turned into almost anything, from t-shirts to furniture and children’s toys too.

I’d love to see what you’ve been recycling around your home and let me know if you are taking the Recycling Challenge too. In the meantime, and like always, keeeep recycling!

Get the scoop on recycling pet waste

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It’s a pleasure when my son volunteers to help around the house. It doesn’t happen as much as I would like so when he offers to help clean our guinea pigs’ hutch it’s hard to turn him down.

He loves knowing that little Marcel has a clean bed to go to and I like knowing that we are doing our bit by recycling his old bedding.

You can do the same too. The hay or straw that keeps your small pets toasty can be easily recycled. Because rabbits, hamsters and Marcel’s guinea-friends don’t eat meat their used bedding can be added to your garden waste ­– just put it in the white sack or brown wheelie bin on a Green Week.

Find out what goes in each bin and when here

Unfortunately any paper you might have lined the hutch with cannot be recycled. It’s just too icky and can’t be separated from the ammonia and other chemicals in pet waste, so should go in your black bin bag. Screw it up small so it doesn’t take up too much room.

I know there are a lot of cat owners out there and I’m afraid that cat litter is not recyclable so it should go in your black bag/bin as well. If you’re on a black bag collection please remember our collection crews’ backs and try not to make each bag too heavy.

The same goes for any dog and cat foods that weren’t gobbled up, as this can’t go in your Food Caddy (a restriction from the anaerobic digestion plant where we send all your food). The only problem is that once this goes in the black bin bag it can start to smell pretty quickly, especially during the summer. The best thing to do is make sure any food is thoroughly wrapped. You can help even further by keeping your bin in a shady part of the garden or by dropping some bicarbonate of soda in first.

Pet food cans can be recycled like any other (worth dancing for). It’s a pet peeve of mine that the laminated sachets that are becoming ever more popular can’t be recycled. We’ll just have to keep pestering manufacturers until they are! In the meantime they will have to go in your black bag/bin.

Catch you next time star recyclers.

Give me the ‘juice’ on recycling Tetra Paks

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shutterstock_429067246When I’m out and about on educational visits, I see a lot of recycling bags on the kerbside and I’ve noticed quite a lot of people are putting juice/milk cartons (known officially as Tetra Paks) in with paper recycling.

Unfortunately they can’t be recycled with normal paper as they have a thin aluminium foil liner inside. But the good news is that they can be recycled using Recycling Banks across the Borough.

You can find your nearest Carton (Tetra Pak) Recycling Bank by using our quick postcode checker here. They’re mainly in the larger supermarkets – so I save mine in a bag next to where I keep my shopping bags and just grab them all at the same time, dropping the cartons off before I go into the store. Job done!

Keep up the good recycling work.

Summer Fun Recyclable Craft Projects

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I wanted to start this week’s post by saying thank you – to all of you for recycling so much since the new rubbish and recycling system came in a few weeks ago. We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of black bag/bin rubbish that we collect. It has gone down by 37%, compared to the same period last year, and I just think that’s AMAZING!

I love making crafts with my son, especially when we’re using materials that we easily find around the home. It’s the perfect activity to do over the summer holidays at home to prevent any boredom setting in. It also helps to teach kids the principles of recycling or reusing materials to make something else.

You can let your imagination go wild…maybe make a pair of paper roll binoculars and go on an epic safari right in your living room or garden. If they get damaged it’s easy to make a new pair!

My son’s favourite is a space jetpack, we use two empty plastic bottles, a bit of string for the straps and a little red and yellow tissue paper for the flames. He then goes off to explore the galaxy, discovering new worlds in every corner of the house. Maybe he’ll be a Tim Peake of the future?! That’s an exciting thought.

If you Google ‘kids craft activities using recyclable materials’ you will literally get hundreds of ideas. But I thought it might be useful to give you a few links to my favourite pages:

Once your little one has finished playing with what you’ve made, just remember to break it down and recycle all the separate elements in the correct container! The best of both worlds – fun and helping to save the planet.

Have a great start to your summer holidays and do let me know if you make anything, it wold be wonderful to hear what you choose to do. 

Let the fun begin!

What does your paper recycling get turned into?

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I’ve been working flat out this morning, visiting residents around the borough and helping them to recycle as much as they can. I really love that part of my job, people are always stunned by the amount of items that are recyclable – usually around 85% of your bin!

Today I thought I’d focus on paper recycling…what you can recycle and what happens to it once we pick it up from your kerbside.

We all have paper in our homes, whether it’s an egg box, newspaper, cereal packet or that pizza menu pushed through your letterbox. But have you ever wondered what happens to your paper and cardboard recycling that has been collected? Well, it gets made into new paper products such as newspapers, cardboard boxes and toilet paper.

Take just over a minute to watch this short video I’ve worked on with my colleagues, it’s about our paper recycling journey:

The main problem with paper is that it’s not all the same type of paper and it can contain items like plastic from window envelopes, staples and stamps all mixed in.

We start by collecting it together, baling it up and transporting it to the processing centre. Here it basically goes into a big drum that spins the paper with warm water – turning it into a pulp called a ‘slurry’. The slurry is then passed over a series of big sieves called ‘screens’ that remove any contaminates like staples or plastic windows from envelopes. It is then passed through some finer screens. There are different grades of slurry. The cleanest goes to make office and fine papers and the lower-grade to make things like newspaper and toilet paper – this all happens in just 7 days!

In Colchester, we use clear bags for recycling our paper and cardboard. Our crews will collect it every two weeks – on a Green Week. If you’d like to find out more about what you can and can’t recycle, check the full list on our website here.

If you run out and need more clear recycling bags you can just pick up a roll (for free) at one of the stockists.

Keeeeeep recycling!

The sign of a good party is a full recycling bin

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I just love eating outside in the summer and you can’t beat a BBQ. I had some friends over at the weekend, we cooked up a storm, but the amount of plastic recycling I had from mushrooms, burgers, sausages and bread rolls was staggering!

We collect most types of household plastic packaging in Colchester: food and drinks such as tubs, trays, pots and bottles.

Here’s where I use my booming radio voice to introduce Part 3 of our video suite – looking at what happens to your plastic recycling:

The plastic gets separated at the processing plant into the different types. This work is done by machine, but if you’re turning into a recycling geek like me you can tell the different types by looking at the number in the middle of the recycling triangle on the packaging. In Colchester we collect everything between the numbers 1-5, but not 6 or 7.

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To cut a fairly long processing story short – the plastic is broken down into flakes and then cleaned. These are melted down and moulded back into plastic products including, bollards, recycling boxes, drainage pipes, park benches, food and drinks packaging and (which surprised me) even fleece jackets.

You can recycle plastic bottles, pots, tubs, trays, bags, film and wrapping (from magazines, cereal packet liners and cling film), blister packs and plant pots.

The things you can’t recycle are: chemical bottles, hard plastic toys, polystyrene, bubble wrap, electronic items, cat food pouches, crisp bags, CD cases or things made of a hard plastic like washing up bowls.

If you’d like to find out more about what you can and can’t recycle, check the full list on our website here.

Next week I hope to look at paper recycling and where that goes.

Until then, keeeeeep recycling!

Recycling turns things into other things – like magic

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I’m really excited to announce that we’ve had some great food waste figures in for the first two weeks of the new collection service. Early indications show that food waste has increased by 50% compared to the same weeks in 2016. Well done Colchester – keep up the good work!

 I recently had chance to visit the processing centre where we send our cans and glass to be recycled. I love this side of my job, it’s absolutely fascinating – I’ll try not to bore you too much but wanted to explain what happens.

 Many of the food and drink products we buy are in cans, jars or bottles – all materials are 100% recyclable – which is just great.

Although we ask you to separate glass and cans where possible (as it makes it quicker for our collection crew when tipping it into the right part of the truck), you can put them all in the same box and our crews will sort them by hand at the kerbside.

 It was interesting to discover that the process for metal and glass are quite different. I took some footage that you can see in this short video:

Metal: cans, aerosols and foil

The metal is compressed into bales and we transport it to the processing centre. The materials are sorted as aluminium, steel and foil and get processed separately. They get melted into blocks, called ingots, which are then rolled into sheets. They are made into new items like food or drink cans and even car parts and aeroplanes.

The surprising thing is that it only takes six weeks for the new aluminium cans to be in the shops – I think that’s amazing!

Glass: bottles and jars

Did you know that only bottles and food jars are 100% recyclable? Other types of glass are made with different ingredients which can’t be recycled.  Once they’re at the processing centre, the glass gets sorted into different colours, washed and broken into small pieces called ‘cullet’. It is then reformed to make new glass bottles and jars.

 I was fascinated to find out that recycling just one bottle can save enough energy to power a TV for 20 minutes?!

We use Green Boxes for recycling our cans and glass in Colchester. Our crews will collect it every two weeks – on a Blue Week. If you’re not sure what you can or can’t recycle here’s a quick guide, but you can find a full list on our website here.

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I know a lot of you will have at least one Green Box as we’ve given out over 15,000 in the last few weeks – but if you need one you can pick it up for free from a local stockist.

Next week I’m hoping to show you what happens to your plastic recycling…so watch this space.

 In the meantime, keeeeeep recycling!

Struggling to remember which bin goes out when?

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We’re near the end of week two of the new collection service and overall, it’s going well. However, I know from the questions we’re getting on social media and from the calls to our Customer Service Centre, that some people are not sure which containers to put out each week.

I realise it’s not always easy to keep track of what goes out and it will take a few weeks to get into the new Blue/Green Week pattern.  We’ve all been there…bin day dawns and you take a sneaky glance down the street to see what everyone else is putting out this week and follow suit.

The best advice I can give you is to keep your Recycling Calendar handy – maybe use magnets to keep it on the front of your fridge like me, or inside a regularly used kitchen cupboard or on the wall by your recycling containers.

We know there has been some confusion over the recycling calendars. All residents had a temporary 3-month calendar in February with their Council Tax bill, which covered until the end of June and then we issued a new 10-month calendar which started from 20 June and some people’s Blue and Green Weeks had changed. We realise it‘s caused some residents to put the wrong containers out and we apologise for this. Please recycle your 3-month calendar and use your new Recycling Calendar from now on.

If you’re ever need to check which week you’re on and your calendar is not handy, you can use our quick and easy look-up online. Just go to www.colchester.gov.uk/recycling and click ‘Check’, use your postcode to see if you’re on a Blue or Green Week. It also reminds you what goes out on those weeks and your collection day.

Here’s a quick guide to what goes out on a Blue or Green Week and what containers to use:

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The best way I’ve found to remember it is that all your clear bags go out on the same week, so that’s paper/cardboard, plastics and textiles (all in separate clear bags) alongside your garden waste – these go on a Green Week.

That leaves your black bags/bin and box or boxes that contain cans and glass – these go out on a Blue Week.

You can find a helpful list of what you can and can’t recycle on our website here.

This reminds me of a really interesting question from TJ last week, who asked if they could put all their recycling in one container and I thought the answer might help everyone understand why we collect our recycling in separate containers and bags.

The answer is about how the recycling processing plants grade the materials collected. By collecting our recycling in separate containers, it is classed as ‘clean recycling’. This means it’s a higher quality product than when recycling is mixed in one container or bin.

We sell our ‘clean’ recycling materials to a processing plant, which last year gave us an income of £260,000. Councils that collect mixed recycling in one wheelie bin have to pay a licensed waste management company an amount (£) per tonne to sort their recycling before it moves onto the recycling markets.

It’s no secret that central government funding is being cut for local councils, and the income we get by selling our recycling helps us to support and continue to delivery our core frontline services.

If you have any questions, you can find our Frequently Asked Questions or send a comment in and I’ll reply.

What happens to your food waste?

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I think the best thing you can do with food is enjoy it…but some waste like egg shells, apple cores and tea bags is inevitable – and I realise some families will have more waste than others.

But have you ever wondered what happens to your food once we’ve picked it up? It gets turned into energy and fertiliser. Our team have put together this short video to explain a bit more and show you how easy it is to do:

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The food waste we collect from the kerbside goes through a very interesting process called Anaerobic Digestion.

And here’s the science bit (I’ve always wanted to say that)…it uses micro-organisms to break down food waste in the absence of oxygen inside an enclosed tank. As it breaks down, it gives off a ‘bio-gas’ (a renewable energy) which is collected and used to generate electricity. At the same time it also creates biofertiliser that is used in farming.

Did you know that 70% of all food waste that is produced in the UK comes from households? The cost of this to an average household is £470 a year (parliament.uk)! I know, I had to sit down too!

So the biggest bit of advice I can offer (and this will save you a few ££’s) is to be aware of how much food your buy. You could make a menu each week – just remember to check what you have in your fridge or freezer already before making a list. If those impulse buys are still slipping into your trolley it might help to make more frequent, but smaller food shopping trips, and not to buy items with a short shelf life if you aren’t sure when you’ll use it. If you want other hints and tips I highly recommend the Love Food Hate Waste website.

But we will all have some food waste, so I thought this quick guide will help to get you started on your food waste recycling journey.  You can find a full list on our website here.

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If you don’t use our free food waste collection, it goes straight to landfill where it rots and releases methane into the environment which is a damaging greenhouse gas. All our household food waste is collected weekly. If you don’t have a food caddy, pick a free one up from your local pick up point (sorry this is not available in flats at the moment unless directed by your landlord).

Keep an eye out for three more recycling videos coming soon, showing what happens to your paper/cardboard, plastics and glass/tins.

In the meantime, keeeeeep recycling (like Strictly Come Dancing but greener 🙂 )

It’s the final countdown…changes start on Tuesday

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I’ll be humming that song all day now…it’s my all-time favourite running song 🙂

But enough of my taste in music…I just wanted to post a quick reminder that the changes to the way we collect the recycling and rubbish in Colchester start on Tuesday!

So from Tuesday, all non-recyclable rubbish, collected from either black bags (3-bag limit) or a black wheelie bin, will switch from weekly to a two-weekly cycle. But remember, your food waste collection remains weekly.

I don’t want to bore you, as I know many of you have read my last few posts, but please do check your new Recycling Calendar to confirm your collection day as it may have changed. If you haven’t received your new calendar yet, it’s on its way. But you can always view a copy or check your collection day on our website.

Due to the new way we’re collecting your recycling and rubbish, some households will start the new calendar on a Blue Week and some on a Green Week. This is not a printing mistake, so please do check carefully to make sure you put the right containers out. And remember that paper/cardboard and textiles will be on a Green Week going forward.

We track how many tonnes of recycling and non-recyclable waste we collect, so I’m really looking forward to sharing some of those stats (I just love a bar chart) with you over the next few months. I just know that with all your help our recycling percentage will go up!

Don’t forget, if anyone wants a bit more info on what you can and can’t recycle this page on our website is very useful.

If you have any questions about the changes, take a look at our frequently asked questions here or post a comment and I’ll come back to you.

Do, do, do – do, do, do, do, do – do, do, do, do, do, do….it’s the final countdown!