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Laying the (paper and) cards on the table

Last week, the communications team paid a visit to the paper and card sorting site in Trafford Park to see how well Greater Manchester residents are recycling.

This is the place where paper and card from across Greater Manchester goes to be sorted and packed before going to a paper mill. Production managers, Zoe Keatinge and Bill Kitchen showed us around.

Unfortunately, as soon as we stepped out of the office, we saw a lot more than paper and card.

The quarantine cage

One of the first things Bill pointed out to us was the quarantine cage. That’s right, a cage full of quarantined waste. It was mainly filled with compressed gas tanks and sharps bins, things that certainly don’t belong in the paper and card bin.

Next to that were two huge skips full of items picked out by members of staff who try to get rid of the worst contaminants. One was for tins and cans that should have gone in the mixed recycling bin. The second skip was for WEEE (which stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment).

The WEEE skip

On this visit we saw lots of electrical items that had been thrown away in the paper and card bin. Sometimes people forget to empty their cardboard boxes before putting them in the recycling and the used electricals get left inside.

Electrical items that still work, or could be fixed can be collected for free by a local charity, or even sold. Those which have no life in them can be taken to your nearest Recycling Centre.

While we were there, a lorry dropped off a load. As well as paper and card we found lots of plastic packaging on magazines and catalogues. There was also a fair amount of general waste – including nappies, plastic bags, plastic films and polystyrene – and some potentially dangerous objects like batteries and fireworks. Pizza left in pizza boxes was also spotted – something which could have been recycled as food waste to make into compost.

Polystyrene in a cardboard box, a magazine in plastic wrapping and pizza left in the box

There were even bags of clothing that looked brand new. Perfect for donating to a charity shop, or for being passed on to someone else. Unfortunately, once they are mixed with waste, they can’t be salvaged.

Bill and Zoe told us that the most shocking thing that someone had put in the paper and card recycling bin was a tortoise. Yes, a living animal! The tortoise had gone through the ordeal of going through all the machinery and was rescued at the last minute. Aside from a crack in his shell, the tortoise survived and was named ‘Lucky’ by the team.

Putting the wrong stuff in the wrong bin has a big impact. Just one wrong thing can result in a truck load being rejected. It costs your council money, which could be better spent elsewhere.

A babygrow and a dirty nappy

Zoe explained: “The key to recycling paper products properly is thinking about how it’s done at the paper mill – then imagining doing it in your kitchen. If you wanted to make a paper item you would dissolve the material in lots of hot water to pulp the fibres. Would you want a plastic bag, piece of wood, phone charger or bit of pizza in the mix?”

“Things that are mixed materials – like jiffy bags or wallpaper covered in glue, coffee cups coated with wax – just don’t break back down into fibres properly and aren’t wanted in paper recycling.”

If you’re not sure if it’s paper or card, put it in your general waste which is used to produce green energy. Or use our handy A-Z, which tells you what to do with (almost) everything.

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