One in ten parents admits to disposing of soiled nappies in with their recycling rather than residual waste, survey finds.
The research suggests “widespread confusion” about correct nappy disposal. 10% of parents of under 3s think nappies should go in a bin “other than general waste”.
Of those who have discarded nappies in with their recycling, “more than a third” say it’s because the packaging shows the recycling logo, whilst a fifth say it’s because they are termed “disposable”.
Labelling on nappy packaging is at the heart of the confusion, according to the North London Waste Authority (NLWA), which undertook the research.
NLWA is now calling on manufacturers to make it clearer on-pack, and through their marketing communications, that nappies must go in the general waste bin.
The scourge of nappy contamination also forces recycling centre workers to pull filthy nappies off conveyor belts by hand so the rest of the recycling can be processed properly
The call coincides with a new campaign – #BinYourNappy – to reminds parents to put used nappies in their general waste bin. to encourage parents to dispose of used nappies with their general waste.
NLWA claims “lorry-loads of recycling have to be thrown away” because they have so many nappies that contaminates the lot.
“The scourge of nappy contamination also forces recycling centre workers to pull filthy nappies off conveyor belts by hand so the rest of the recycling can be processed properly,” it says.
NLWA says it wants to help parents do the right thing with used nappies and avoid causing these problems.
Disposing of nappies properly not only helps the environment, it also helps reduce the £1.5m cost of contamination met by north London taxpayers every year, it says.
Chair of NLWA, Councillor Clyde Loakes, said: “It’s hard to overestimate the scale of this unsavoury problem. We know parents want to do the right thing. That’s why we’re asking parents to put used nappies in the general waste bin. Contamination of recycling damages the environment, is costly for taxpayers and leaves recycling centre staff having to remove soiled nappies by hand.
“Our research shows that there is huge confusion about the labelling on packs. We’re calling on nappy manufacturers to come on board and make things clearer for their customers and help parents’ understanding.
“The estimated cost of dealing with contaminated recycling in the next year in north London alone is nearly £1.5million – money which I’m sure most taxpayers would prefer was spent elsewhere.”
Steve Oulds, national commercial manager at Biffa Waste Services Ltd, a materials recovery facility that deals with recycling from households across north London, said contamination is the single biggest challenge it faces on a daily basis.
“We see millions of nappies arrive at our facility each year,” he said.
“Nearly half of parents in the survey didn’t know that recycling is sorted by hand. I hope that this knowledge helps encourage everyone to dispose of every nappy in the general rubbish bin.”
NLWA says further confusion has been found around nappies marketed as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’, with half of all respondents believing these are recyclable in some form.
NLWA says further confusion has been found around nappies marketed as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’
Some respondents to the survey also thought whether a nappy is clean, wet or soiled makes a difference to whether it can be recycled – it is not currently possible to recycle any type of nappy through mainstream council recycling services.
The ‘Green Dot’ symbol (two intertwined arrows forming a circle) has been shown to be the most baffling for parents, the survey suggests.
Of those surveyed, 55% thought that this meant the outer packaging could be recycled and 13% thought it meant that either clean or used nappies could be recycled. In reality, the symbol only indicates that the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging in Europe and does not mean that the packaging or its contents are recycled or recyclable.
At the heart of the #BinYourNappy campaign is a video showing the scale of the problem at one recycling facility.
As well as working with nappy manufacturers, NLWA will be enlisting the help of health services, toddler play centres and parenting groups to help spread the #BinYourNappy message.