Council to partner with leading sustainability charity to tackle recycling contamination in Merton

A series of extra measures are to be put in place to combat the issue of contaminated recycling in Merton’s on-street bins, after research by the council showed as much as 80% of the recycling collected from our street bins is contaminated.

There are hundreds of dual bins across Wimbledon, Mitcham, Morden and Collier’s Wood, all of which contain recycling-only bags as well as bags for non-recyclable rubbish.

But the research, carried out by the environmental charity Hubbub for Merton Council shows that of all the recycling collected from these bins, it is not unusual for almost all of it to be contaminated beyond acceptable levels for processing.

Recycling operators will not accept loads which have contamination level any higher than 5% – meaning the entire recycling collection is rejected and has to be sent to energy-from-waste instead.

In response, the council is partnering with Hubbub to install up to 50 new eye-catching bins, with 20 installed in time for the Wimbledon Championships, to help raise awareness and make it easier to recycle the right rubbish in the right bins.

The pilot, also being run in partnership with Love Wimbledon, will be launched in Wimbledon ahead of the increased footfall expected during the Championships as restrictions relax, but if successful may be rolled out more widely.

It will also involve a competition in schools across the borough and South London, with the top five designs being used on the bins, and the winning designer being awarded tickets to the 2022 Championships.

General household recycling in the borough has improved significantly in recent years, rising from 39% in 2017 to almost 42% in 2020.

Natasha Irons, Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Local Environment and Green Spaces, said: “While recycling collected from on-street bins is less than 5% of the overall recycling we collect, I know our community will be shocked to learn that so much of it has to end up being sent to the energy from waste facility instead of being recycled.

“It doesn’t take much to contaminate a bag – throwing in liquid, food waste or the wrong materials will mean it is rejected at the processing centre for recycling, as anything over 5% contamination means the whole collection is rejected.

“We all want Merton to stay as environmentally-friendly and green as possible, and this new project will ensure we invest in and support innovative ways to help make recycling on-the-go as easy as possible for people.”

The first 20 bins can be seen from the first week of Wimbledon, with more being installed the following weeks.