Hunter Resource Recovery lifts the lid on the strangest things people try to recycle

LIFTING THE LID: Chris Lewis is part of a team from Recycle Right which checks the contents of people's recycling bins in the Maitland Local Government Area. PICTURE: Max Mason-Hubers.
LIFTING THE LID: Chris Lewis is part of a team from Recycle Right which checks the contents of people's recycling bins in the Maitland Local Government Area. PICTURE: Max Mason-Hubers.

When it comes to recycling Maitland residents have raised the bar and are among the best in the State, but there is still a minority who continue to place dead animals and soiled nappies under their yellow lids.

While the majority of residents recycle right, there is still two percent of the city's population who still don't get it.

"There is a hardcore two percent of residents who continue to misuse the service which is disappointing as they are undoing the great work done by their fellow residents," said Hunter Resource Recovery CEO Roger Lewis.

"We've had some weird and at times disgusting items in the bins - dead animals, doggie doo, heaps of general garbage, disposable nappies which are a big issue as well as gas cylinders," he said.

And the list of items accidentally thrown into the recycling bin are just as strange. "Residents have claimed to have lost everything from passports and tickets to cash and with several hundred tonnes collected a day and largely machine sorted these items are seldom found."

According to Hunter Resource Recovery, the company that runs the recycling bin collection service, Maitland is above State average participation rates and low contamination rates.

The news comes at a critical time for the industry with users of 'end products' (companies that use recycled materials to make other products) demanding high quality standards (less than 0.5 percent contamination).

Maitland's recycling service has been operating for 22 years.

"When we first commenced up to 25 percent of recycling bin contents was not accepted product," Mr Lewis said.

"It took several years to see significant falls and by year five it fell to 10 percent and year seven to just five per cent. Today it's steady at around 3.5 per cent. So while we have done well over the years there is still room for improvement.

"The majority of residents do use the service correctly but there are times when simple errors are made via confusion of whether the product is acceptable or not.

"We encourage residents to check the guide available on line at hrr.com.au .

"However via our bin check teams, we can identify these locations, tag the bin and ensure they are not collected.

"We don't fine residents who use the service incorrectly but we identify non acceptable bins. If we feel it's an honest error we leave a friendly card and recycling guide.

"If it's offensive or hazardous waste or the bin has been tagged previously, we list it as contaminated and don't collect it. However the bin is collected the next service day once the resident has removed offending items.

Asked if the service should be weekly rather than fortnightly, Mr Lewis said the cost associated with additional services meant the service had to stay weekly. Residents can up-size to a larger bin with 50 percent more capacity by contacting council. These bins cost no more to service, however a one-off administration charge is applied by council to process the request.

Mr Lewis said it helps if residents rinse items before disposal, as waste can take up to two weeks before it reaches the plant.