MORE than 70 per cent of material placed in the average Borders household's general waste bin could have been recycled, council papers have revealed.

A recycling and waste policy update was provided to members of Scottish Borders Council’s (SBC) audit and scrutiny committee last Thursday (June 3).

In the papers put to elected members it states that in the latest waste composition analysis conducted by the council, 74 per cent of the contents could have been recycled.

Of that 74 per cent, 35 per cent was made up of food waste, while 28 per cent could have gone to the community recycling centre and 11 per cent put in blue bins.

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The report reads: “The council regularly undertakes waste compositional analysis of household wheeled bins to help inform communications plans and future service provision.

“The most recent analysis undertaken in September 2018 confirmed that over 70 per cent of the waste placed in the average general waste bin could have been recycled through pre-existing council services.”

At the meeting, Hawick and Denholm councillor Neil Richards, of the Conservatives, said the figure “does not come as a surprise”.

“I always have the imponderable problem at home, ‘What do I do with tins etc etc that have got food residue on them?’ he said. “The 70 per cent, I can understand that because sometimes I think, ‘Oh, should I be putting food waste in with recycling'?"

Mr Richards then asked Ross Sharp-Dent, the council’s waste manager who was present at the meeting, how “we get around” the issue.

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Mr Sharp-Dent, who quoted the SBC motto "wash 'n' squash", said: “Before you place your materials into your recycling bin you do need the materials to be clean.

“If you’ve got a baked bean tin and it has still got residue of baked beans, if it was just going to be metals and baked bean tins that were going in it wouldn’t be the end of the world – other than it would start smelling and wouldn’t be great from an environmental perspective.

“It’s not going to impact whether the metal could be recycled as long as there isn’t lots of material in there.

“The reality is, though, you’re placing it in with plastics and, more importantly, paper products and it’s contaminating those materials and that is where we get problems.”

Mr Sharp-Dent added: “You can turn a potentially recyclable material into something that is non-recyclable.

“Paper mills have very strict standards on contamination levels before they start recycling things.”

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In terms of fixing the issue, Mr Sharp-Dent said the council has been “trying to get a message out there” to use its recycling services.

“We need to do something about that [74 per cent],” he said. “There are certain people out there that need more of a push to do the right thing.”

He added that reducing the size of general waste bins or how regularly they are collected could “drive people to use recycling bins”.

Tweeddale West councillor Heather Anderson, of the SNP, said more education in schools could help the issue.

“Nobody has more reach than local authorities,” she said. “Working in our schools and getting young people to understand the [recycling] system, that’s our best way to access every household.”