A COUNCIL official said recycling contamination has been dealt with harshly to help people in the Vale of Glamorgan pick up the separated recycling method quicker.
The Vale of Glamorgan Council continued the rollout of its separated recycling scheme as it was introduced to Penarth, Llandough, Sully, Dinas Powys, and the surrounding area on April 17.
Separated recycling, or source-separated recycling as it is sometimes known, was introduced to Barry in 2020.
As with its initial rollout there the introduction of source-separated recycling in the wider Vale was not without its teething problems.
Within days of the expanded rollout a number of people took to social media to complain about their recycling not having been collected after being issued with a sticker notifying them that it was contaminated. This is known as a ‘lockout’.
The council’s chartered waste manager, Colin Smith, argued there was a good reason for this seemingly harsh action.
He said: “Within this first week of rolling out the new service we have what we call waste wardens going around and looking at the bags assessing the contamination levels in advance of the collection crews.
“What they will do is go up to a bag, particularly the mixed bag – the blue bag with the metals and the plastics in – and they will asses the content.
“If there is any contamination they will apply the sticker and then mark the reasons why. Invariably it is soft plastics and cardboard in large sheets not broken down and put in the orange bag.
“The reason we deal with it harshly… [is] so they will immediately learn in week one why they have failed.
“Then, what you find in week two and week three is almost immediately people will have got into the new system.
“The worst thing we could do is just collect it because people think they have done it the right way and they will just keep doing the same thing every week.”
There were more than 380 lockouts on the first day of the expanded roll out of the source separated recycling scheme.
As with the introduction of source-separated recycling elsewhere in the country there were concerns in the Vale that it might be more difficult for certain groups to pick up the new method.
Mr Smith said the introduction of source-separated recycling in Barry helped the local authority learn a lot about the scheme. This, in turn, informed its continued rollout to other parts of the Vale.
He added: “We are concious of the impact it has on vulnerable residents, particularly the elderly.
“What we established is that the containers are far too big and are not practical for elderly residents, particularly those who live on their own.
“We developed a quad bag so they can have one single bag with four compartments sewn in.
“Within those four compartments they can separate glass, they can separate mixed plastics, metals, paper and cardboard. One bag will do all of the new service areas.
“That is something we have learnt so we developed that and a instructional leaflet and we offer that to those residents who don’t produce much waste and find it confusing.
“In addition to that we offer a doorstep collection for those who can’t manage these bags or because of the physical demands.”
The continued rollout of the council’s source-separated recycling scheme co-coincides with the opening of a new waste transfer station at Atlantic Trading Estate, Barry.
Acting as a larger and more up-to-date version of the facility the council has in Cowbridge the waste transfer station in Barry is where the source-separated items are brought to be sorted, baled, and then transported again for recycling and further processing.
Having its own waste transfer station means the council will have more control over where the county’s waste goes to and what happens to it, according to Mr Smith.
He said: “This new infrastructure will help futureproof the service of the council for a number of years ahead.
“It will enable us to roll out the source-separated recycling service which ensures compliance with Welsh Government policy but also it is a sustainable service for the future and this is allowing us to separate recycling on site, bale it, and sell it direct to market ourselves.
“In a sense we are cutting out a contractor in that so it is more economical for the Vale of Glamorgan but also we can control the process and make sure this material goes within Wales and the UK only.”
On top of the usual items the new facility in Barry also collects smaller household electrical goods like toasters, kettles, and hairdryers.
The council’s collection of waste of electrical and electronic items (WEE) in Penarth and the surrounding area is a new service which was also rolled out on April 17.
When asked how the council might look to further develop its recycling and waste collection service following the rollout of source-separated recycling, Mr Smith said: “Once we have achieved that then we will look at flats and apartments which are at the moment co-mingled recycling.
“There hasn’t been anyone in Wales yet taking the co-mingled stream out of those flats and apartments and substituting it with a source-separated collection service.
“That is our first ambition, to take co-mingled out of the stream in its entirety, bring on all of those difficult places and find bespoke solutions for them so that we can capture more material and make sure it is sustainably recycled and then following that we will bring on our commercial customers.”
However it doesn’t stop there. After the council has finished bringing everyone on to source-separated recycling and once it is confident that the operation is working well it may look to further develop its waste transfer station in Barry.
“The visitors centre is an ambition of ours,” said Mr Smith.
“We hope to have an education centre where we can invite schools down and show them what we do on the site and then educate them to make sure that our future is in safe hands.
“We have lots of ambitions about educating people but also about generating additional income and making sure that we have the most sustainable recycling service in Wales.”