This is how recycling rates in Leeds city centre have tripled in one year

Leeds is leading the way when it comes to waste, as new research shows the number of people recycling in Leeds City Centre has almost tripled in a year.

Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, 6:00 am

The results of the Leeds By Example scheme show more than 1.2 million coffee cups, 140,000 cans and 160,000 plastic bottles were recycled across the city since it started 12 months ago.

The project, the UK’s biggest joint effort to boost recycling of some of the most common food and drink packaging consumed on-the-go, has seen 186 new recycling points and new technology in the city, including 79 new on-street recycling bins, 10 new on-street coffee cup recycling bins, as well as four plastic and can bins in Seacroft.

The number of people recycling in the city centre rose from 17 per cent to 49 per cent over the course of the year.

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There are 186 new recycling points in the city centre.

Coffee cup recycling almost quadrupled from 14 per cent to 53 per cent.

It comes after a group of 21 people from across Leeds - a climate change citizens’ jury - drew up a list of 12 objectives to ensure the city is at the forefront of plans to tackle climate change, including making more extensive recycling facilities available and accessible to all.

The pilot scheme, by charity Hubbub and Ecosurety, launched in October 2018 and it has since been rolled out to Swansea and Edinburgh.

And the project will continue in the city, organisers have revealed, as the council has now taken over waste collections and say they are keen to increase the number of recycling points over time.

More than 1.2 million coffee cups, 140,000 cans and 160,000 plastic bottles have been recycled across the city in 12 months.

Gavin Ellis, co-founder and director at Hubbub, said: “The city is now leading by example when it comes to recycling.

“We have learned a huge amount from this trial and would like to thank the people of Leeds and our partners for their support.

“The information we’ve gathered will inform many similar programmes in the future and we hope this will have a huge impact on recycling on-the-go levels across the UK.”

A major challenge the campaign sought to address was to reduce the levels of contamination, as stray materials like food and drink in bins can lead to recyclable items not being able to be recycled.

A recycle point in Kirkgate Market.

The quality of recycling dropped during holiday periods when city footfall rises and in areas where people are in a rush, such as near bus and train stations.

Clear messages such as “Empty plastic and cans, nowt else”, plus consistent colours and icons have helped to achieve a steady reduction in contamination rates over the course of the trial, with an average contamination by weight was 39 per cent, compared with the national average of 51 per cent.

Sam Newton, co-owner of EcoTopia, a zero waste food shop which opened in Central Arcade a year ago, welcomed the results, but said there was more people could do on an individual level to improve recycling rates, particularly when it comes to contamination

“It’s as simple as putting the rubbish in the right slot, but there are still a lot of people doing it wrong," she said.

“We can’t expect everyone to do this for us. People need to be more aware of where they are putting their rubbish.

“Most people are aware that this is a problem now. It’s going to affect us all in our lifetime, not the next generation.”

Andrew Cooper, Chief Executive of LeedsBID (Leeds Business Improvement District) said: “It is great that this project is yielding success.

“Forge Recycling have been an excellent component in this initiative, encouraging businesses to recycle more, save money and reduce the impact on the environment.”

“In our next chapter, this is a key theme, being innovative in supporting the environmental agenda of the city centre.”

Forge Recycling work with LeedsBID levy payers to help cut costs, boost recycling rates and improve the look of the city centre.

Coun Al Garthwaite, deputy executive member for Environment and Active Lifestyles, said: “The huge success of this groundbreaking initiative shows that not only is Leeds city centre growing and thriving, but that busy Leeds people are really keen to help the city respond to the climate emergency by doing their bit.

“The council will continue to explore new ways to help people recycle more items more easily, alongside promoting reuse and ways to reduce excess waste.”