Leeds leads the way when it comes to recycling

Leeds city council aim to reduce plastic waste with their ‘opt in’ scheme providing a positive impact for the environment

Leeds’s ‘opt in’ recycling scheme sees an increase in recyclable green bin waste as contamination levels fall from their previous 50% in areas that have seen the scheme implemented.

The most recent figures show that Leeds is recycling around 13 tonnes of green bin waste every month in Harehills, where the ‘opt in’ scheme was put in place towards the end of 2016. Andrew Lingham, Head of Waste Strategy and Infrastructure said that ”recycling is a top priority for the council.”

Leeds City Council previously collected around 20 tonnes of waste each month compared to the current 13 tonnes. However, the contamination levels of recycling in certain areas of Leeds was causing the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to reject up to half of all waste taken for recycling.

Carolyn Moss, Waste Management Business Officer said ”if it [the waste] was really badly contaminated then the whole load would get rejected completely, which is costly for the council because it means we’ve got to pay twice to get rid of it”

She continued ”The key thing is, although we’re collecting fewer bins we’re actually getting far better quality materials because it isn’t contaminated”

The overall amount of waste recycled in Leeds sits at around 40% with approximately six thousand homes having the option to ‘opt in’.

A zero waste city

Leeds City Council’s current target is to achieve a 50% recycling rate by the year 2020, targets set by the EU that are likely to continue after brexit. Miss Moss said that ”Leeds’s ambition is to become a Zero Waste City.”

A Zero Waste City is a city that has ”openly committed to the goal of continuously reducing waste generation and improving waste separate collection” according to Zero Waste Europe.

Leeds does this through it’s Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) where all black bin waste goes for selection before incineration, recyclable materials thrown in black bins are able to be picked out from the rest by the machines on site.


Miss Moss explained ”Although it’s an incinerator up front there’s a process where the waste is mechanically picked for recycling” she continued ”The only waste that’s left after the incineration is the bottom ash and that then gets re-purposed into road building and cinder blocks.”

Environment and oceans

The latest recycling and waste initiatives by the EU and the UK Government are trying to stop plastic pollution and reduce the damage it does to the environment. The ‘Plastic Pact‘ aims to completely remove single-use plastics from circulation by 2025, along with ensuring 100% of plastics are recyclable or compostable within the same time frame.

A photograph of St Bees Beach on a stunning sunny day showing off the beauty of the UK's coastlines.
UK coastlines and the World’s ocean are facing devastation from plastic pollution.

Plastic pollution is a very real and very scary issue. Local governments like Leeds City Council seem to be trying to reduce the impact that plastic can have on the environment, however, it also comes down to those who live there to ensure that their waste is properly recycled so that it cannot end up in our oceans.

If you live in any of Leeds’s ‘opt in’ areas you can find more information here.

By Isaac Rigby-Nelson


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