11 February 2016 by Daisy Phillipson

Fife contamination ‘not linked’ to residual reduction

Fife council in the east of Scotland has repeated a call to residents to reduce contamination in recycling loads, having been blighted by a long-running issue with non-target materials in bins.

Mr Wincott says education is needed to reduce contamination

Mr Wincott says education is needed to reduce contamination

In a statement, the council said that while recycling rates are high, recycling bin contamination remains a major issue in Fife despite a similar appeal to residents in 2014.

“Bin collectors have found unsuitable items and bags of general waste in recycling bins. This gets mixed with materials that have been responsibly separated, and results in them not being recycled,” the council said this week.

The concerns come in the midst of a waste pilot scheme to collect residual waste every four weeks from householders in Markinch, Coaltown of Balgorie, Thornton and Stenton. The trial, which is one of the first of its kind in the UK, also has a separate collection service to monitor the impact of three weekly refuse collections (see letsrecycle.com story).

Having begun in September 2015, the trial is running for nine months in order to monitor the effect of a reduction in residual waste collection frequency. Fife council will use the findings to inform future changes to its waste collection service.


While many councils have looked to reduce residual waste collection frequency in a bid to reduce landfill rates and collection costs, some in the sector have argued that the move could lead to a spike in contamination within recycling.

Councillor John Wincott, Fife council’s sustainability champion has denied that this has happened in Fife, and argued that the measure sits alongside ongoing work to reduce recycling contamination.

“While the trials will see general waste picked up less frequently, we are collecting the recycling bins more often. So we are not picking up any less waste, but it is all about educating residents so that they don’t contaminate the bins. What we have found when we pick up residual waste is that half of it could be recycled. In addition, the green bins, which are for cans and plastics, are always full. We think people are putting these materials in their general waste bins because their recycling bins are full.”

Cllr Wincott continued: “Therefore we are urging residents to help us recycle even more by looking at what they are putting in their bins, what they are recycling and where they are putting it. Contamination can lead to a load being rejected and then sent to landfill or, in the worst cases it also means that some bins are being left unemptied.

Fife council has a four-bin system for recycling and general waste

Fife council has a four-bin system for recycling and general waste

“The cost of landfilling has increased significantly in recent years, so it makes economic as well as environmental sense to separate and recycle the waste.”

Recycling rates

Despite issues with contamination, Cllr Wincott highlighted that recycling rates remain high and that Fife Council continues to divert a large percentage of its waste from landfill.

The Household Waste Summary Data 2014, the summary of household waste data published on the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) website, showed that for the year Fife had a recycling rate of 53.7%. Mr Wincott said this figure increased to over 56% in 2015.

“Fife council is one of the best performing local authorities in Scotland and this is mostly down to the efforts of our residents. We already have a good recycling rate but now the focus is on looking to boost that even further,” he added.


In October 2014, the council warned residents about general waste being found in recycling bins. This came following a change to its bin service, swapping the previous three-bins to a four-bin service (see letsrecycle.com story).

The current ‘four bin’ system for Fife residents includes a blue bin for general waste, brown bin for food and garden waste, black bin for card and paper and a green bin for cans and plastics.


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