Ten to 15 per cent of Brighton and Hove’s recycling is sent for incineration because people put the wrong items in the bin, residents were told this week.
The high rates of contamination were blamed on the large number of communal bins in the more crowded areas of Brighton and Hove.
A senior Brighton and Hove City Council official, Rachel Chasseaud, told a meeting: “With communal recycling, it’s much harder to control when you’ve got a lot of people using a recycling bin.
“We don’t collect as many different streams of materials as some other local authorities.
“A huge amount of contamination is plastic pots, tubs and trays. Other local authorities would not consider this contamination as they would deal with it differently.”
Mrs Chasseaud, who runs Cityclean, the council’s rubbish and recycling service, was answering a question at a housing management panel meeting with tenant and leaseholder representatives.
She said that Cityclean was trying to work out how best to tell people what they could and could not recycle.
And work to enable more plastic pots, tubs and trays to be recycled was under way, she said.
Currently, this low-grade plastic was contaminating lorry-loads of recyclable plastic which then ended up at the incinerator in Newhaven where it generated electricity for 25,000 homes.
But last year the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee gave cross-party backing to a feasibility study into recycling plastic pots, tubs and trays.
Mrs Chasseaud also said that there was a “myth” about plastic recycling because councils that collected pots, tubs and trays only managed to recycle 20 to 30 per cent of them.
She said: “A lot of it, in theory, can be recycled but there is nowhere that recycles it.
“Greenpeace has some really interesting campaigns. There have been programmes on the television where they talk about plastic ending up in the sea or being landfilled in Malaysia or burnt in Turkey.
“In Brighton and Hove, we collect plastic bottles that we know can definitely be recycled because it is a very good quality plastic.”
She did not rule out collecting lower-grade plastics because a recycling rate of up to 30 per cent was “still something”.
Anything left over would go to the incinerator which Mrs Chassaeud said was better than not knowing where the plastic ends up.
The topic came up at the East Area Housing Management Panel on Tuesday (17 May).
Christine El-Shabba, who chaired the meeting at the Vale Community Room, in Hadlow Close, Brighton, said that she was monitoring her plastic as part of the Big Plastic Count.
And she encouraged to join the nationwide investigation which was being carried out by Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic.
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