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Wheelie bin waste contaminated

Last updated 05:00 31/05/2012
Daniel Tobin

Charlie Gates is shown around a recycle plant where recyclable material is sorted from yellow wheelie bins.

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Dead dogs, a belt of machinegun bullets, sex toys, marijuana, a hand grenade and a goat - just some of the things Christchurch people put in their yellow wheelie bins.

About 8.5 per cent of material collected for recycling in yellow bins is contaminated, city council figures show.

The most common contaminants are used nappies (which recycling workers call "baby bombs"), hosepipes, clothing and live ammunition (during the hunting season).

The council has withdrawn bin services from seven people since last July because of breaches of the rules.

It has also sent 256 warning letters, 49 second warnings and visited 17 people to remind wrongdoers of the rules.

Council staff can pinpoint bin wrongdoers with a camera that scans rubbish as it is tipped into the trucks.

Eco Central general manager Robert Gerrie oversees the Wigram plant, which sorts 250 tonnes of recyclable material into glass, metal, plastics, card and paper categories every day.

Placing ammunition in a yellow wheelie bin was dangerous, Gerrie said.

A bullet started a fire in a bail of paper last year when the pressure of the bailing machine set it off.

Plant workers recently recovered a camera bag full of shotgun shells before it was fed through the machine.

Gerrie said a large dead dog was accidentally fed through the plant about three weeks ago, but was recovered intact and disposed of properly.

This week, six dead ducks were placed in yellow bins.

"In an ideal world, we would try to keep the right things in the right bins," Gerrie said.

The level of contamination in the green wheelie bins is much lower at 1.6 per cent.

Council city water and waste unit manager Mark Christison said the contamination rate in Christchurch compared well with cities in other countries.

Nappies and ammunition should go in the red bins to landfill, not the recycling depot, he said.

"Who would think a nappy is recyclable? We try to stop that when we see it. They are a challenge. We just don't want that material in our recycling stream.

"That some people think ammunition is recyclable is interesting.

"Ammo and gas bottles and any explosive thing should not be put in the bins because there is risk in the trucks of fires and explosions."

It was rare for the bin service to be withdrawn, Christison said. "It has to be quite extreme to get to that stage." "There are over 160,000 households that we collect from every week," he said.

"That is a very low percentage that we have to take these extreme measures with."

RUBBISH AT PRE-QUAKE LEVELS

Christchurch City Council figures show that the amount of rubbish being sent to a landfill every year has returned to pre-earthquake levels.

The contents of red and green wheelie bins were sent to a landfill for about six weeks after last February's quake as the composting plant was out of action.

Extra waste was generated by the quake, with damaged goods from warehouses and supermarkets.

In the 2009-10 financial year, 37,000 tonnes of rubbish was collected at the kerbside and sent to a landfill, but in the next year 47,000 tonnes was collected.

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About 34,000 tonnes has been collected so far this financial year.

About 40,000 tonnes of recyclable material and about 44,000 tonnes of organic material for composting were collected in the past financial year.

- The Press

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