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!

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 🙂 )

You Can Do It!

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I can’t believe another week has flown by already and it’s time for my fifth post – where does the time go?!

We have three dedicated Recycling Zone Wardens at the Council, myself and two others. We’re all working hard to help prepare everyone in Colchester for the forthcoming rubbish and recycling changes in June. We’re out and about somewhere different every day, knocking on doors, offering help and advice on how to recycle more and talking about the new collection changes.

We’ve met some nice people and have had some fantastic results so far. One I wanted to share with you is Keith and his family of eight (six children, two adults and a cute dog). Keith had concerns about meeting the three bag per fortnight limit as the family were putting out 10 black bags a week.

I called around to Keith’s for a chat (and a very nice cuppa – cheers Keith). We talked about the changes and ways the family could recycle more. At the same time, I dropped off the free (yes I said free) recycling containers they needed. After four weeks, they had reduced their rubbish to four bags a week but were struggling with space for food waste, so I dropped of an extra caddy for them.

Keith’s been amazing and has got the whole family involved in recycling. They put up some simple hooks for the plastic and paper recycling bags, labelled them to make it fun and easier for the kids. As a result, they’re now down to two black bags a week, which are only three quarters full. These can easily be condensed and the family are now able to confidently fall within the three-bag limit.20170313_155117.jpg

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I know that there will be a small number of families, who have specific circumstances, who will produce more than the three-bag limit, or 180litre black wheelie bin. To apply for an exemption, please read our Exemptions Policy, and if you feel you qualify, follow the steps to apply. The process will include a visit from one of us Recycling Zone Wardens to ensure we go through each application on an individual basis.

Have a great week!

How to set up your home recycling centre

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The question I get asked the most is about where in the home you can find space for storing the recycling boxes and bags. It can be tricky when you live in a small property, but I’ve found that it’s certainly easier to maintain the recycling habit if you create your own recycling system and make it part of your daily routine.

 Our houses and flats are all different shapes and sizes, so there’s not one solution that will suit everyone. I see some great examples when I’m out and about in Colchester and have put some of my top tips and advice below. If you have an ingenious storage solution, share it by submitting a comment.

 Potentially you can have 2 green boxes to separate cans and glass, 3 clear bags to separate paper, plastic and textiles, 1 internal food waste caddy, 1 external food waste caddy, up to 4 white garden sacks (or a brown wheelie bin in selected areas) and a black bag (or black wheelie bin in selected areas) for non-recyclable rubbish.

 You could create your home recycling centre in the:

  • Kitchen: usually the place where we create most of our rubbish in the home.
  • Utility Room: If you’re lucky enough to have one they can be a great location, especially if you’re limited for space in your kitchen.
  • Garage/Shed: If you can find room between the BBQ and garden tools this can be a great place for storing the boxes and bags out of the way.
  • Garden: If you want somewhere close to hand, but outside the house, the garden can be a great place to stack your green boxes and kerbside food caddy.  If you feel like splashing out, you can get specialist outdoor containers readily from most DIY and homeware stores.

Here are some examples that I’ve seen recently:

 My biggest top tip is to make it easy and a whole family affair. It’s easier to get others in your family involved if they know what they’re supposed to do. You could colour code, label or put pictures on recycling containers, so the kids can help sort recyclables or post instructions such as a list of what items can and cannot be recycled – here’s a handy list for you.

 Don’t forget someone in the house will need to be responsible for making sure the bags and boxes get put out for collection by 7am on the correct day. You can check yours here by simply putting your postcode in.

 I look forward to seeing all your ideas!