When items we can’t recycle are put in your household recycling bins, it is called contamination.

It’s a problem in Norfolk and across the UK because it makes sorting your material much more difficult and reduces the value of the what we collect for recycling.

Norfolk’s recycling material is sorted by hand and baled by machine in a purpose-built factory in Costessey. So it’s really important to keep your recyclables Clean, Dry & Loose.

Contamination can be:

  • Types of plastic that we cannot take for recycling in Norfolk e.g. non-rigid (cling film)
  • Unrinsed food tins, cans, pots, tubs and trays
  • Half empty drink bottles and jars
  • Even clean, recyclable materials if they are placed in a bag of any kind

And just because something says it can be recycled or has a recycling logo on it, it does not mean you can put it in your recycling bin in Norfolk.

Things That Contaminate Your Recycling

In Norfolk we sample and check our recycling by hand to better understand what contaminants people are putting in their recycling bins.

The main items currently causing problems include:web1170_-_disposal_nappies_-_web_version__72ppi

  • Nappies – The box your disposable nappies come in is recyclable, but the nappies themselves, in Norfolk, are not. Nappies (used or unused) must not go in your recycling bin. They make otherwise clean recycling dirty and someone has to  remove them by hand.Find out more on our page about nappies.
  • Tissues and used kitchen wipes
  • Food waste – gets onto recyclable material and includes food on recyclable material that has not been rinsed out
  • Non-rigid plastics – crisp packets, sweet wrappers, bags and food wrapping (cling film)
  • Rigid plastics – toys or broken garden furniture, plant pots and polystyrene
  • Sharps items – this can range from a discarded needle right up to a full sized scythe!  These items are dangerous and do not belong in your home recycling bin
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Electrical and electronic items

What's The Problem?

Contamination isn’t good because it:

  • Wastes the efforts made by people that are recycling correctly
  • Increases the cost of your recycling collection service as items have to be handled several times (collected for recycling, sorted and removed for disposal)
  • Reduces the amount we recycle when otherwise good recycling has to be diverted and sent for disposal
  • Reduces the quality and value of our recycling material

In extreme cases contamination causes an entire load of material, that was otherwise fine, to be rejected. The companies we sell our paper and card to send inspectors to check the quality of the material we are sending them. If they find food or a nappy in a bale of paper and card they will not accept any more of our material, until we pass future inspections. Paper and card that would have been going to them has to be sold to another company, which buys it at a lower price.

All this means a loss of  income which costs the councils and therefore you, the taxpayer, money. And that money could have been used on other services.

How You Can Help

It’s simple:

  • Make sure you put the right things in your recycling bin. You can find our helpful guide here
  • Just remember, all materials should be placed Clean, Dry & Loose in your recycling bin.
    • Clean – empty and rinse containers so they are free of food, drink or other residue.
    • Dry – after rinsing, shake off excess water as liquids can make other things soggy and not fit for recycling.
    • Loose – different materials need to go in your bin loose.  Please don’t put things in carrier bags, bin bags or boxes as they can’t be separated and recycled.

Explaining recycling symbols

These days everything seems to have at least one recycling symbol on it. That can make it confusing to understand what to put in your recycling bin. Take a look at what all those symbols mean here.