Responsibility for separating recyclables now on EU homeowners

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Responsibility for separating recyclables now on EU homeowners
recycling bins

Photo via the University of Exeter

One of the best ways to increase recycling rates is to take the complication out of separating the recyclables you need to dispose of. Whether a depot has a catch-all bin that is later sorted by machines or workers, or a facility provides separate bins for plastics, cans, and paper (like in the image above), the easier it is for consumers to recycle the better the chances they’ll actually bother to do it.

Which is why it’s bad news to hear that the EU is putting more of the responsibility of separating recyclables on the homeowners before they can be accepted by the recycling depots. Some homes only require three bins (one for landfill waste, one for recyclables, and one for garden waste) but some households are going to have to keep up to an astounding ten bins in order to accommodate all of the different types of recyclables that can be collected.

Given these stats on waste production in the EU, the new recycling rule is even more troubling:

Between 1990 and 1995, the amount of waste generated in Europe increased by 10%, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Most of what we throw away is either burnt in incinerators, or dumped into landfill sites (67%).

Though it’s not all doom and gloom – in fact, some European countries are recycling as much as 50% of their waste.  But the new recycling rule comes as recycling facilities have been finding it difficult to separate things like glass from other recyclables, such as paper or plastic. For instance, whenever shards of glass wind up stuck in newspapers it makes it difficult to recycle either of the materials.

As the recycling depots struggled to find a solution to implement in their facilities to allow homeowners to recycle via a catch-all solution, they realized the easiest solution for them to implement would be to have the materials sorted before they even arrive at the depot. Unfortunately, this means adding extra recycling bins and putting more effort on every homeowner instead.

While most people who are willing to recycle in the first place will likely not put up a fight to separate their glass from their plastic, for example, it still means an added eyesore to keep additional bins in their home or garage, and some extra steps required before they can dispose of their household’s waste.


This article is published in partnership with Unisan UK, recycling bin suppliers in the United Kingdom.

Located in Toronto, Ontario, Ian is the co-founder of The Auto Future and managing editor. Add Ian to your Circles on Google+ or Follow on Twitter @iapa.