Recycling is a tricky business

STEVE DOWNES The lounge is knee-deep in ripped and crumpled wrapping paper, festive tags and ribbons. You know you should be making it a green Christmas by recycling as much of it as possible.

STEVE DOWNES

The lounge is knee-deep in ripped and crumpled wrapping paper, festive tags and ribbons. You know you should be making it a green Christmas by recycling as much of it as possible. But how do you do it?

An EDP investigation has found that homeowners face an onerous and confusing task if they want to do their bit for the environment.

The biggest stumbling block is the wrapping, which is torn from presents in its acres on Christmas Day.

If it is foil, you are foiled. If it is heavily inked, think again. If it is plastic, it is not fantastic. If it is glittery, it makes the councils jittery.

But there is another hitch.

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For even if your wrapping paper is recyclable you have to take off all tags, string and ribbons, and carefully cut off all the sticky tape that helped to get the shiny show on the road.

Apparently, the added extras give the recycling machinery indigestion.

So if you thought buying and wrapping the presents was a hassle, try the post-Christmas drive to recycle your waste. It's enough to drive you mad.

A spokesman for Breckland Council said: “We've sent out calendars and leaflets advising people to take wrapping paper to the paper recycling bank rather than putting it in their recycling boxes.

“Our recycling stations cannot cope with the glitter and the tags and all of the other things which go with Christmas wrapping paper, so it is much easier for people to take it to the paper recycling banks.”

Mark Allen, waste resource manager (operations) at Norfolk County Council, said: “It's a big 'no thank you' for wrapping paper in recycling bins.

“Much of wrapping paper isn't paper at all, it's metallic foil. Then there's all the sticky tape and tinsel. At the next stage of sorting at the plant at Costessey, all that stuff gums up the works.

“It can all be cleared out but it adds to the problems. And anything going direct to merchants with contaminants in is more likely to be rejected.”

Mr Allen advised using newspaper to wrap presents, or even putting them in cloth bags.

A spokeswoman for Broadland District Council said: “We are asking people to help us recycle as much as we can. Please put the foil and metallic paper in the residual bin. For other wrapping paper please remove the sticky tape, ribbons and bows.

“We would then ideally prefer people to put their wrapping paper in the paper banks at the recycling bring bank sites. Alternatively, they can put the paper in their recycling bin (grey bin) but we ideally only want the plain stuff.”

The plot thickens, though, in Waveney, where the district council's website says it is okay to put wrapping paper in the recycle bin.

But while it is a bit of a palaver, it could be worse.

Some English councils - including in Hampshire - are invoking the spirit of Scrooge by threatening verbal warnings or even a £1,000 fine for people who persistently put wrapping paper in recycle bins.

Around here, however, the authorities are turning a blind eye - for the moment.

A spokesman for Breckland Council said: “They won't be penalised if they put it in the wrong box - that would be a bit harsh at this time of year.”

A spokeswoman for Broadland District Council said: “We would not take enforcement action if people put wrapping paper in their residual waste bin and we would be unlikely to take enforcement action for non recyclable wrapping paper in the recycling bin.

“If we did come across a situation where someone had totally abused the system (and in our experience most people are pretty helpful) we might leave the bin and ask the household to take out the non recyclable material.”

Julie Brociek-Coulton, executive member for environmental management at Norwich City Council, said “no enforcement action” would be taken, but added: “Who knows what will happen in the future?”

Brian Long, cabinet member for environment at West Norfolk Council, said action “might” be taken against anyone putting wrapping paper in the recycling bins - but not necessarily.

t For more information, visit www.edp24.co.uk/yourrubbish