Edinburgh schools see big increase in recycling after new bins initiative by council

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‘Still room for improvement’ Edinburgh council says

Recycling in Edinburgh schools has shot up after a drive to make more bins available in classrooms.

The £120,000 initiative resulted in an increase in dry mixed recycling of up to 111 per cent and food waste recycling of up to 950 per cent. Councillors first agreed to boost the recycling and waste collections in city schools in October 2020, but the initiative was held up by the Covid pandemic and the extra bins were only rolled out to all schools in May 2022. The move was also influenced by a primary school Youth Climate Summit held in the run-up to COP26 in 2021, which found that pupils overwhelmingly wanted more recycling facilities in their schools to help tackle waste and support climate action.

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Before schools got the new bins, a study found only 28 per cent of the waste in non-recyclable waste (NRW) bins was non-recyclable, with the other 72 per cent material which could be recycled such as food, plastic bottles, tin cans, paper and cardboard. Food accounted for around half of the recyclable material in the NRW bin, and plastic, metal, paper and card for around a quarter.

The recycling initiative has seen an increase in recycling but the council says there is still room for improvement.The recycling initiative has seen an increase in recycling but the council says there is still room for improvement.
The recycling initiative has seen an increase in recycling but the council says there is still room for improvement.

The council spent £100,000 on recycling bins for all classrooms, canteens and corridors. Each school now has classroom and hallway recycling bins, along with food waste bins; each classroom has been provided with a recycling bin, so that there is one dry mixed recycling bin and one non-recyclable bin in each classroom; and schools have arranged a collection point where full recycling bags from classrooms can be placed before being collected by cleaning staff.

A further £20,000 was used to promote the recycling scheme, including with films for assemblies and classrooms. And a poster competition in December 2021 for pupils to design posters encouraging recycling attracted lots of entries.

Latest figures from a sample of six schools used to monitor the success of the recycling initiative show that, with the exception of one school, average daily dry mixed recycling bin weights increased between March and November last year by an average of 57 per cent, but the performance ranged from a fall of 33 per cent in one school to an increase of 111 per cent in another. And average daily food waste recycling bin weights also increased between, again with the exception of one school, though by dramatically different amounts, ranging from an increase of around 16 per cent to an increase of 950 per cent.

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An update to councillors says despite the increase in recycling there is still room for improvement. Each of the sample schools will receive recommendations on how to improve performance.

Council leader Cammy Day said: "It’s important to encourage young people at an early age to see recycling as just par for the course, what we should all be doing. But, in fact it’s often young people who are pressing for recycling so it’s our responsibility to provide the resources to allow them to do that. I’m really pleased to see this initiative has increased recycling and really pleased to see young people taking a lead in this city.”