How Doncaster's thrown-away rubbish is set to help its environment

Chris Gallagher admits he is sometimes amazed what people throw out.

Thursday, 18th April 2019, 15:23 pm
Updated Monday, 20th May 2019, 08:51 am

Chris is a team leader at Doncaster’s main recycling and recovery depot, where the contents of the borough’s recycling bins are dropped off after the town's kerbside collections are completed.

The trucks arrive at the Suez site on Kirk Sandall Industrial Estate, Sandall Stones Road, and drop them off.

Suez recycling driver James Gravil and Chris Gallagher, team leader, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-16-04-19-SuezGrants-2

Arriving, visitors can hear the flapping of what appears to be a kite flying over the site. It is a device in the shape of a hawk, that blowing in the wind, which is intended to keep birds off the site, like a modern scarecrow.

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From the trucks, items are transferred to enormous enclosed skips, ahead of being taken away to specialist recycling firms.

Since the firm started its latest contract with Doncaster Council, it has changed what happens with some of the collections.

Under the latest agreement, the money raised by selling off textiles and electrical items, which they began collecting a year ago, gets put together in a fund and it is due to be given out in grants to local environmental charities. The Free Press has been asked to help decide who receives grants and will form part of a judging panel.

Chris Gallagher, team leader, Nicola Harvey, recycling officer, Victoria Crabtree, contract general manager and Lee Richardson, DMBC waste and recycling manager, pictured, holding a few of the textiles and electrical items that are recycled. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-16-04-19-SuezGrants-1

Dropping a bag of clothes which have been thrown away to be recycled into a large steel container, Chris says some of the clothing is in really good condition, and has clearly been good brands

“You see really nice things thrown away. You only notice if it comes out of the bag,” he said.

The flip side is the old rags that also get put in bags left out for the collections. Some of the clothes get sent abroad for re-use. Rags get made into other things.

The clothes are one half of the goods that are now contributing towards environmental grants.

Since last March, the team has also been collecting electrical goods. Again the range of items is vast, as people chuck out their old broken items.

They will only accept items up to a certain size, which will fit into the boxes that are used. The biggest items tend to be microwave ovens and small televisions.

Chris has been working in recycling for 11 years.

“Old irons are probably the most common things that get thrown out,” he said. “We’ve only been doing it a year, and we never knew there would be so much.”

The old clothes and electricals have raised enough to create a £20,000 fund. That has been raised since March 2018.

Since that time, the trucks have collected 69 tonnes of textiles, and 55 tonnes of electricals. September and October were the busiest times for the textiles, which the eight tonnes collected in January and February this year have been the highest for the electricals – just after Christmas.

Suez’s contract manager Victoria Crabtree said: “Our crews put the items in the van, and drop them off in the skips. After that they are taken away so we don’t see exactly what happened to items after that. They are taken away for reprocessing.

“We only pick things up if they’re small enough. Anything that’s bigger has to be taken away to a recycling centre by the householder.

"We were surprised by the quantity of items when we first started.

“Nice clothes that can be re-used will be reused. Rags will be recycled. Most of the textiles go abroad, although some stay in the UK.”

She has figures from the firm which takes the textiles. They reveal that by weight, almost half the items collected head off to West Africa, both in textiles and shoes.

Most items of clothing go to Africa, or to Pakistan, In total, 81 per cent is exported to non-EU countries Only 1.41 per cent ends up in landfill.

Recycling offer at the plant, Nicola Harvey, believes people are pleased that they can now recycle their old electricals.

“It’s really useful if you’ve got an old kettle,” she said. "I think its a positive addition to the service people get. But I think the big benefit will be that extra funding that this brings in for community groups, and we’re expecting quite a few applications for grants. We’ve already had enquiries.”

Community groups, clubs and schools can apply to either the Smaller Projects Fund (for awards of up to £2,000) or the Larger Projects Fund (for awards of up to £5,000). Applicants have until 5pm on Friday June 7 2019 to submit an application.