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VIEWPOINT: Confession. That’s my purple-lidded bin and I don’t recycle everything I can

Three staff from Torfaen Council’s waste and recycling service did a presentation at Cwmbran Community Council last week.

Discussions on social media have been pretty lively over the county council’s plan to make changes to when and what rubbish and recycling is collected from our homes each week. One popular comment that jumps out of every online discussion is along the lines of “I recycle everything possible and my bin is packed full every two weeks”. If I had £1 for every time I’ve seen a comment like that I would be going on a nice holiday in the sun for Easter (I’m not, but I am walking to Twmbarlym for a FREE hot cross bun if you fancy it?)

I’m honest and can confess that I don’t recycle everything that I can. I know I don’t. Our purple-lidded bin is never ‘packed’. It may be one or two kitchen bin bags each time. For info, I live with my wife and teenage daughter so we aren’t a five-person household.

I’ve just looked at the council’s website on what goes in the black box and found they collect cartons, clothes and paired shoes. I have put all these items in my purple-lidded bin in the last month. Our old clothes usually go to a charity shop but certain items just aren’t suitable and I had no idea they could go in the black box. Two weeks ago my battered pair of favourite shoes went straight into the purple-lidded bin.

So the council has a job to do around education. They need to make it as easy as possible for us to recycle and for us to know the range of items they collect each week.

Am I thrilled with the change to a three or four-weekly purple-lidded bin collection? No, of course not. There are larger families who will struggle but it was good to hear staff say they will offer support and advice to anyone who needs help. I hope as many people as possible go to a roadshow and ask questions.

Across Wales, nine councils have made changes from fortnightly collections and ten (including Torfaen) are doing reviews. That leaves three councils that are keeping their collections the same. And it’s no coincidence that those councils have the highest recycling rates in Wales. In Torfaen the rate is 62.7% and needs to be 70% by 2024/25 or the Welsh Government could fine them £100,000 for every 1% under the target.

It’s frustrating for us as householders as we feel it’s another thing we have to do in our busy lives. I see it as just putting items in a different ‘bin’. Different ‘bins’ are collected each week, you just put things in the right box.

Read the data below and it does seem that we are choosing to put things in wrong bin when they should go in one of the other containers. Anyone who recycles everything they possibly can and still has a packed purple-lidded bin should go to one of the roadshow events and chat to the staff. That’s exactly why they are being held (dates and times are below).

What is actually put in our purple-lidded bins?

Staff told councillors about an exercise they do twice a year.  They said an independent company choose some streets at random, once during the summer and once during the winter. During those days our purple-lidded bins are collected but aren’t taken to landfill. This company empties them all out on the floor and examines what’s in them. Yep, they literally pick through and look at what’s in the bin that should only contain items that can’t be recycled. The latest findings showed the top five items were:

  • Food waste and plant materials- 39%
  • Paper and card- 15%
  • Plastic film- 9%
  • Hard plastic- 5%
  • Textiles- 5%

Other items include glass and metals. The exercise showed that only 20% of those bins checked (I missed the number of bins) was made up of items classed as ‘non-recyclable’. So only one-fifth of the contents of the bins they looked at should be in the bin. The rest can be recycled but not necessarily throught the council’s collection service.

The change will also see us get a cardboard collection every week. Now that’s one item that our house struggles with sometimes. I’m glad to see rain so it’s easier to pack down cardboard and get it into the blue bag. Look what’s happened over the last three years. Online delivery has gone through the roof and all those items are in cardboard packaging. So we are buying more stuff that is delivered to our homes and now the council is bringing in a weekly cardboard collection.

Plastic film

This is the stuff that we peel off items like packs of fruit, veg and meat. The waste they examined contained 9% of plastic film and it can’t be put in your black box. The council want to start a scheme with schools being collection points. Stretchy plastic can be dropped off at a few venues in the area including Cwmbran Morrisons.

Food waste

This is an interesting one. Only 64% of homes use them. Some may not as they compost waste or give it to their pets. But I have friends and family who refuse to use their food caddy for various reasons. So this means their food waste ends up in their black bin where it can sit for two weeks. But for those of us who use a caddy, we get it collected every week, not every two if you put it in the other bin. I’ve had maggots once in all the years we have had it and that was when the lid wasn’t correctly closed. A good tip here is to reduce food waste as much as possible by cooking only what you need.

Here is the info about the roadshows. They started last week. Try your best to pop along and talk directly with people from the service about your household as we are all different.

Dates, times and venues for the roadshow

  • Thursday 6 April – Cwmbran Library – 10am-3pm
  • Thursday 13 April – Cwmbran Library – 10am-3pm
  • Friday 14 April – Facebook Live event – time TBC
  • Tuesday 18 April – Cwmbran Shopping Centre – 10am-3pm
  • Wednesday 19 April – Pontypool Civic Centre – 10am-3pm
  • Thursday 20 April – Pontypool Active Living Centre – 5pm-8pm
  • Thursday 27 April – Cwmbran Library – 10am-3pm
  • Tuesday 2 May – Cwmbran Shopping Centre
  • Thursday 4 May – Cwmbran Stadium – 5pm-8pm





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VIEWPOINT: Confession. That’s my purple-lidded bin and I don’t recycle everything I can

a purple lidded bin