The East Riding’s recycling rates have been continually rising, but to find out we are second in the whole of England in the latest Government results was beyond our expectations.
It is a huge achievement for the council and our hard-working staff, but mainly for the residents of the East Riding, who have embraced our recycling projects ever since we rolled out our first blue bins in 2003.
Their support of every scheme we introduced in the past 14 years – from fortnightly collections to having three different recycling bins – has made our job much easier.
It is hugely important to listen to our residents as well, and ask them what we can do as a council to help them recycle more.
Last year we introduced stronger kitchen caddy bags after residents requested them in a survey about increasing food waste recycling.
We’ve also found that a little encouragement goes a long way.
As part of a trial we placed tags on bins as a polite reminder to people to use their brown bin for food waste and not their green non-recyclable bin. That led to immediate results, with an average decrease of around 1kg of waste per household each week in the green bins.
One major factor in our increased recycling rates has been our new waste treatment contracts with Biffa, J&B Bio and FCC Environment, which started in 2015 and changed the way our waste was processed.
Now more material is extracted for recycling before the remainder is sent to be processed into refuse-derived fuel.
All the food and garden waste is treated locally at the Biowise in-vessel composting plant, and each spring the council gives away around 5,000 free bags of that compost as a thank you to residents for their efforts in recycling.
The council is also extremely proactive in spreading the recycling message. We have a team of waste and recycling officers who go into the community giving talks to schools and clubs, offering advice and support to residents, as well as monitoring bins and working closely with our refuse collections teams to address issues at an early stage.
We also actively promote reuse, and have a reuse shop at one of our 10 household waste recycling sites, operated by FCC Environment, which sells good quality items such as furniture and electrical goods which residents have given to their household waste recycling sites.
There is still a long way to go and we have improvements to make, particularly to our textile and food waste recycling. But I am confident that, through encouragement, education and the continued support from our residents in embracing new recycling schemes, our rates will continue to improve.
Paul Tripp is the group manager of environmental services at the unitary authority