Birmingham City Council recycles hot air

Birmingham City Council have announced that they intend to become an “example of international best practice in recycling“. Currently they collect paper only from the vast majority of households. Last year I called them to ask about collections of other materials such as plastics, aluminium and glass. Their response was that they were still considering their options and such collections may be rolled out in the future.

Paper collections are hit and miss at best with collections being scheduled on alternate weeks but frequently paper left out for collection is left uncollected. Also many many paper products are excluded from what can be put in the recycling bags, often for apparently spurious reasons. For example at a time when we are advised to shred all mail before disposing of it shredded paper is banned from the recycling bags on the grounds that collectors may cut them selves on the sharp edges, the council’s Environmental department apparently never having heard of gloves.

6 Comments so far

  1. Pete Ashton (unregistered) on January 12th, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

    From this BCC page:

    “What kind of paper?
    All sorts can go in the container! Newspapers, magazines, junk mail, cereal boxes,telephone directories, catalogues,books… in fact anything that’s made of paper. Please fold cardboard before you put it in the container and if it’s too big put it next to the container on collection day. If you can’t get all of your papers in please leave them next to the container as well with something on top to stop them blowing away.

    “What’s no good?
    Please don’t put in the following: milk and drinks cartons, paper soiled with food waste or any other contamination, anything not made of paper or cardboard.”

    No mention of shredded paper there.

    Plastic, glass and tin collections are being rolled out – they happen in Stirchely at the moment – though I can’t find anything about them on the BCC site.

  2. Stephen Booth (unregistered) on January 12th, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

    I first heard mention of not piutting shredded paper out on the BBC breakfast news (a lot of councils don’t allow it) and contacted Environmental Services to check if it was allowed. They told me no. Any paper that has been wax or plastic coated (common in paper used in food packaging) is also barred. Similarly any cardboard plastic/wax coated or which has staples in cannot be put out for recyling (although I suppose you could remove the staples). I also asked about collection of other materials and was told that there was a pilot going on but it may not be rolled out to the rest of the city. Given the frequent disconnect between the BCC website and reality I’ll go with what I’ve been told.

    The vast majority of my paper waste is either shredded for security reasons or comes from food wrapping. It takes me about two months to fill the paper recyling bag but I put out about a sack and half to 2 sacks each week of rubbish (mostly food packaging). Plastics and metals recycling would reduce my rubbish to less than a quarter of a sack a week. A composting collection would also help, my area is infested with rats so we are barred from putting food waste to compost in the garden.

  3. Pete Ashton (unregistered) on January 12th, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

    Well, if we’re going on what we’ve been told, I heard the reason we don’t have full recycling yet is because there aren’t the facilities to process it in place, what with Birmingham being a rather large city. That was a year or so ago though.

    As for shredded paper, I’m really going to need some kind of evidence for this. When I worked a paper collection round (in Banbury) the only problem with shredded paper was it blew all over the place and never went in the waggon.

    Of course it makes perfectly good composting material so you can recycle it yourself.

  4. Pete Ashton (unregistered) on January 13th, 2007 @ 12:15 am

    Sorry to bang on about this so much but I want to address the food packaging stuff. Whatever the actual restrictions are there’s a good reason you can’t recycling certain sorts of paper. The key word here is “recycle”. It has to come out the other side of the machine as something useful. Paper that is contaminated with plastic or greasy food is not going to make good writing paper for example.

    Not all paper is created equal and it’s not all recyclable. It’s up to manufacturers to use materials that can be put through the system and up to consumers to demand this from them.

  5. GaZ (unregistered) on January 13th, 2007 @ 10:21 pm

    I sent an email to the council about a year ago asking about any recycling collections in my area, however they never replied! Do you know of a good contact address? I think the one I tried was

    As I never received a response my only option is to make a trip down to Sainsburys or Tesco, as they both provide basic recycling facilities for glass and paper, and plastic bags (in the store).

  6. Stephen Booth (unregistered) on January 13th, 2007 @ 11:23 pm

    On the shredded paper: The first reason I heard (on the BBC) was that it tended to blow around and mess up the streets rather than staying in the wagons. When I contacted Environmental Services they additionally mentioned health and safety concerns over paper cuts.

    For contacting Environmental Services: I’ve used the email address as well, but got a resonse. I’ve also used the call centre phone number (303 1111). You could also try the city council switch board (303 9944) and ask to be put through to Environmental Services. If you can get a name of an individual then they and be emailed at [first name].[last name][at]

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