The new Peterborough recycling centre in Fengate has been praised by city councillors, but recycling rates are said to be lower than they were 20 years ago.
The new facility opened a month ago and is more than double the size of the one it replaced in Dogsthorpe.
Cllr Nick Sandford (Lib Dem), addressing members of the council’s Growth, Environment & Resources Scrutiny Committee at their meeting on Wednesday (March 13), said: “While I applaud this new facility for being so much more efficient than the old one, I notice that our city-wide recycling rate is only 42.77 per cent and that is down on last year’s figure of 43.3 per cent.
“As one of the few councillors who has been around long enough to remember, I recall that 20 years ago we were recycling at a rate higher than 48 per cent; with all this new technology, what has gone so drastically wrong?”
Cllr Marco Cereste, cabinet member for waste and street scene, responded: “To date we’ve only had one complaint and that was from an elderly lady who arrived with some larger items for disposal but couldn’t find anybody to help her remove them from the car.
“Since then we’ve spoken to our staff and that matter has been resolved. As far as the recycling rate is concerned it is our aim to achieve 50 per cent or higher in the coming months and I genuinely believe this is possible.”
Cllr John Fox (Werrington First said: “I am worried about how we separate recyclables at the moment. The instant something is contaminated with food waste it cannot be reused.
“I know that many councils separate into different coloured containers which are distributed to homes and the onus is on the householder to separate out each type of recyclable. Only then can we hope to achieve your goal of 50 per cent or better.”
Parish councillor Richard Clarke had similar issues, saying: “People are particularly confused about what they can, and more importantly, what they cannot put into their green bins as garden waste.”
Cllr Cereste responded: “Food waste contaminating recyclables has always been a problem, but I hear what you say about different coloured containers and that may be one way forward.
“I know from my own home in southern Italy that we have five recycling collections a week, and while I don’t see Peterborough getting to that level for a while yet in the future recycling may become trendy and we will have to address that.
“As far as garden waste is concerned, this has caused people concerns for a while now. What we have done is update the council website with defined and consistent information of what can and cannot be recycled, and which bin it goes in.
“But if people find their recycle bin is full, don’t think about getting rid of it elsewhere and definitely don’t fly-tip. Simply bag it up and put the plastic bag at the side of the recycle bin – our operatives have been given explicit instructions to collect properly sealed plastic waste sacks placed at the side of the recycle bins.”