Leeds city centre introduces new recycling bins as part of #LeedsByExample campaign

By Hannah Riordan

Organisers behind the latest recycling bins in Leeds city centre say they hope they will help people to understand more about what they can and can’t recycle.

The new recycling bins have been placed in various locations around the city centre as part of a larger campaign, aptly named Leeds By Example.

The campaign was originally set-up by London environmental charity Hubbub, but now works in partnership with businesses across Leeds in a bid to establish a new on-street recycling network, and reduce the city’s on-the-go waste.

Hubbub’s research identified on-the-go waste to be the primary cause of waste in Leeds – although Leeds is not alone in this. Every year we are consuming more and more food and drink on the go, which is packaged in valuable materials that should be recycled.

With the help of Leeds City Council, as well as organisations including Zero Waste Leeds and Forge Recycling, the campaign has introduced over 100 recycling points. This includes 39 on-street bins for plastics and cans, five bins for coffee-cups, eight recycle reward machines, and over 20 indoor cup recycling points.

The bins have been specifically placed and labelled to make people aware of the separation that must take place when recycling plastic, aluminium, and paper.

#LeedsByExample provides constant reminders around the centre to separate recycling materials.

Hubbub’s partnership with Forge Recycling means complex packaging such as coffee cups, which are a combination of paper and plastic, can be directly sent to a recycling facility which will separate these materials and recycle them completely.

Gavin Ellis, director and co-founder of Hubbub, said he believes the public do want to recycle as much as they can, but they are often confused about how to recycle, or cannot access recycling facilities when they are on the go.

Zero Waste Leeds intern, Lucy Williams said: “Leeds By Example is also targeting the demographic of 18 to 25-year-olds.

“This younger demographic, who are mainly students, are twice as likely to buy meal deals and other food on the go, but at the same time they are also less likely to recycle.”

To tackle this, the campaign has issued a number of innovative and interactive facilities and technology, to appeal to the younger demographic, and enable people to recycle more often:

  • The ‘Re-cycler Cargo Bike’ travels around the city centre, trading empty plastic bottles for rewards.
  • Two ‘Bubble Bins’ are also making their way around Leeds, blowing bubbles in exchange for empty cans and plastic bottles.
  •  ‘We Recycle’ is a new app which has been developed by OPRL (On-Pack Recycling Label) as part of the initiative. The app can be used to scan barcodes on food and drink products, which will not only allow you to find out if the packaging is recyclable, but you will also be notified the location of your nearest recycling bin/facility is.
  •  Four new recycling bins for empty plastic bottles and cans have also been installed in Seacroft, East Leeds. The bins in Seacroft will help compare recycling levels in the city centre with a more residential area.
  •  A brand-new seating area has been installed in Dortmund Square which, although may look like wood, is in fact made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. 

The new seating area in Dortmund Square made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.

Hubbub is currently reviewing the results of the facilities so far, and considering the next potential steps for the campaign. Hubbub’s long-term aim is to develop a new national approach to recycling on the go. They hope to achieve this by sharing the results they have collected with councils and larger policymakers to help create more consistency.

Hubbub creative partner, Jess Wiles said: “There has been a lot of interest from other towns and cities, so we will be looking at developing an inspiration guide to help them implement the bits we know work, whilst also seeing how we can continue to build on the momentum in Leeds as the flagship city for recycling on the go, to ensure it continues to #LeedsByExample”.

 Leeds City Council’s chief officer of environmental services, Helen Freeman, said: “Overall the campaign results to date are looking positive, recycling rates are increasing, the level of contamination is manageable and there is growing positive awareness about the scheme.

“This impact is the result of using consistent, colourful and playful messaging across the city centre”.

Leeds City Council is currently monitoring phase one of the campaign. An impact report will be published in late April for publication at an event at the House of Commons on May 9.

How Leeds is pioneering a new system for on the go waste recycling

  • National statistics show 1/3 of us are unsure of what can and cannot be recycled. Putting the wrong materials in recycling bins, as well as leaving food and liquid in recycling goods can often contaminate the whole lot. Contaminated bottles, cans, cups, and packaging would then be unrecyclable and would be sent to waste.
  • Less than 1% of the coffee cups we use in the UK get recycled. This is due to a mix of materials; coffee cups have a plastic film on the inside which means they require a specialist recycling facility which is not widely available in the UK.
  • On average, 35.8 million plastic bottles are used in the UK every day, but only 19.8 million are recycled each day. A possible cause for this is contamination. When plastic bottles are not thoroughly emptied, there is a risk of contaminating a whole batch of plastic bottles.
  • The #LeedsByExample bins have already collected almost four tonnes of plastic and cans to recycle. A contamination rate of less than thirty per cent has also been achieved.
  • 15 existing general litter bins have been ‘reskinned’ as yellow recycling bins to expand the system. Leeds City Council have also purchased 15 new litter bins to sit alongside these.
  • Leeds City Council have collected 265,000 coffee cups from the yellow bins across Leeds. Including 40,000 cups from the five on-street bins.

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