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Cameras discourage ‘nasties’ in Irish household waste

Ireland – Recyclers in Ireland have taken issue with a report from the country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggesting that the level of contaminants found in dry mixed recyclables bins is less than 10%. Operators claim they are coming across ‘horrendous stuff’ in the waste stream.

Some 98% of households in Ireland now have access to a green bin, according to the EPA. It describes the increase in the country’s recycling rate as impressive: while only 7500 tonnes of packaging waste was collected from domestic recycling bins in 2002, this grew to 115 000 tonnes by 2011.

Most Irish waste management providers take care of paper, cardboard, aluminium, tin cans and a wide array of plastic packaging. Very few accept glass, while none welcome nappies, used cooking oil – or dead dogs. Yet the latter keep turning up in bins, warns John Dunne, manager of Panda Waste.

‘Gone mad’

‘The contamination rates have absolutely gone mad over the last five years,’ observes Dunne, who believes that the EPA figures are ‘wide of the mark’. In Dublin, more than 30% of material collected was made up of ‘stuff that is not meant to be there,’ ranging from glass and garden waste to more unsavoury items, he adds.

‘Nappies are actually the worst overall. If a nappy gets through, is baled and gets to the Far East, it may have to come back after going halfway round the world,’ Dunne remarks. Removing such contaminants is quite a high-cost operation because of the manual labour and the additional containers that are called for.

According to Niall Killilea, managing director of City Bin, the root of the problem is that the popular green bin is a much cheaper – and sometime completely free – solution for citizens, leading them to discard everything via the same route. The problem could be reduced by supplying brown bins for organic waste free of charge.

Contamination warning

Panda has developed an advanced camera system within collection trucks, designed to discourage households from contaminating their refuse. The camera identifies unwanted elements in the incoming waste. If these are present, the households responsible can expect a warning letter. Dunne says this initiative has produced ‘immediate’ results. ‘After two weeks, contamination levels had dropped to 22%; two weeks later they were in single figures.’

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Source: The Irish Times

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