Edinburgh’s plastic recycle tags can’t be recycled

Jason Rust who is complaining about the council putting labels on recycling to say they aren't recyclable but the labels themselves cannot be recycled
Jason Rust who is complaining about the council putting labels on recycling to say they aren't recyclable but the labels themselves cannot be recycled
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Edinburgh council are under fire for telling residents they are not recycling properly – with labels that can’t be recycled

City refuse collectors label “contaminated” bins if the rubbish includes some items that do not belong in that bin.

But the tags used to notify residents are made from a plastic that is not currently recyclable.

Councillor Jason Rust said: “It seems ironic that a label advising rubbish has been put in the wrong place is itself not able to be recycled.

“One would assume the label is attached for a few short hours between being placed there by an operative and then the householder removing – so something more fit for purpose which could used which can be recycled would be more apt.”

The council responded to Cllr Rust’s enquiry: “The tags we use need to be weatherproof, and so are made from polypropylene, which is not currently recyclable. Please note that we manage over 200,000 tonnes of waste per annum, and the use of a tiny amount of plastic tags means that we successfully recycle more than 90,000 tonnes – we feel the outcome justifies the use of plastic for this purpose.”

Polypropylene is a flexible plastic and can be used in a variety of ways including labels, textiles, plastic parts and reusable containers. It is the world’s second most widely produced synthetic plastic, after polyethylene.

The material can be recycled in some forms but the labels used by the council are not currently recyclable.

Green councillor Steve Burgess said: “You couldn’t make it up! For me, as a long-time environmental campaigner, it has been striking just how quickly plastic waste has risen up the agenda the last six months, so that decisions on tagging that were made even a year or so, now seem radically out of date.

“So, of course, the council needs to remind people when recycling is not as it should be, but it should really be looking for new materials which are in keeping with the message.

“And at the same time, much more can be done to inform and encourage waste reduction and re-use. I’m convinced the public appetite is there, so it needs both carrot and stick.”

The council tags explain what can or cannot be included in each bin as “putting the wrong items in your recycling bins/boxes may result in the whole load being sent to landfill as it becomes contaminated”.

A report on reducing the use of plastic bottles is due before councillors soon.

It comes as the Scottish Government has matched an EU pledge to make all plastic packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030 by cutting the amount of straws, bottles, cups, lids, cutlery and takeaway packaging that pollute land and sea alike.

Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said it was a strong signal of intent to stop plastic waste at source. He said: “The new commitment to be part of the European phase out of single use plastics by 2030, Brexit or no Brexit, is the strongest possible statement that we are serious about getting rid of plastic.”