One of the current barriers to household recycling is the high rate of contaminated waste material being placed in blue bins.
What is contamination?
When materials are wet or covered in food, they are contaminated and they are rejected at the recycling plants. They then have to be sent to energy from waste or landfill. You can also contaminate your recyclable material by putting items like paint tins or used nappies into your blue bin.
Contamination is caused when householders place liquids, food and wet paper/cardboard into their blue bin. Unfortunately even one householder placing, for example, a carton of milk or bottle of juice into their blue bin can contaminate an entire waste lorry full of blue bin materials. This means that wet, contaminated products are rejected for recycling and have to be sent to landfill or energy from waste (incinerator).
For details on what should and shouldn't be placed in blue bins, please visit:
What's changing from June 2022?
To help make it easier for households to recycle, a new green recycling bin service is being introduced to West Lothian households from next summer which will help to increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill.
- The new 240 litre green bin - the same size as the current blue bin - will be collected every four weeks.
- Plastics and metal will be placed in the new green bin.
- Once green bins are in place, only paper and card will be placed in the blue bin which will also be collected every four weeks.
The introduction of a green bin will allow residents to separate their waste better, resulting in less contamination.
This will provide households with a fortnightly grey bin collection service and a fortnightly recyclable material collection, as occurs at present. The difference from next summer is that the recyclable material collections would alter between green and blue bins, to enable the different material types to be collected separately.
The council will make a bid to Zero Waste Scotland to fund the one-off project for the supply and delivery of new bins for over 82,000 homes. This will also enable the council to be aligned with the Scottish government's Charter for Household Recycling. The Council Executive also approved funding for increasing engagement in communities to help to support communities/households to improve.
Increasing the West Lothian recycling rate
Recycling rates in West Lothian have increased steadily over recent years and increased significantly since the introduction of slim grey bins in 2017. Approximately 8,500 tonnes more materials were recycled in 2019 compared to 2016 and this has translated to a rise in the council's annual recycling rate from 48.5% to 58.2% (latest official figure 2019: SEPA).
Reducing landfill costs to ensure money is spent on local services
The change results in a budget reduction for the council of around £727,000 per year which was agreed as part of the Transforming Your Council (TYC) process in 2018 - this saving is achieved because sending waste to landfill is hugely expensive. Scottish Government funding continues to be insufficient to meet increasing costs and demands for services. As a result, West Lothian Council will have to put in place budget reduction measures of £9 million this year to meet the shortfall in funding and balance the budget - something the council is legally required to do. It is estimated that between April 2007 and March 2023 West Lothian Council will have made budget savings of over £151 million due to prolonged constraints in Scottish Government funding.
Executive councillor for the environment Tom Conn said:
"The introduction of the slim bins in 2016 has highlighted that changes to bins and the collection service can result in positive changes that help our local environment. This does require behaviour change on the part of local people but the positive results are very clear.
"For improvements to the local and national environment; two things must happen. Householders must be able to access recycling facilities easily but we all, as residents, need to change our behaviour and do the right thing when it comes to taking simple steps to dispose of our waste.
"Ultimately the introduction of the green bin is necessary because too many householders are not doing what is asked for - ensuring that only clean and dry materials are placed in the blue bin.
"We must act to increase further the amount of waste we recycle and the introduction of green bins will help us.
"We, like many people, are committed to improving the environment and cutting back on the impact waste has on the planet.
"We understand that people that put items into their blue bin currently want to help, and they recycle with the best of intentions. But by not ensuring materials are clean and dry the outcome isn't often positive.
"Many other councils in Scotland already have similar arrangements in place and we know this change will reduce contamination and increase the amount we recycle. It will also reduce the amount of money the council has to spend on sending waste to landfill. Money that can be used to improve other local services."