Recycling contamination in Singapore

What is Recycling Contamination?

Recycling contamination happens when recycling is done incorrectly, where materials are mixed in the recycling process. Anything other than that specific material to be recycled is a contaminant.

An example of contamination includes recycling carton boxes (paper) with LDPE (plastic).
Even though both items are recyclable, the right way of recycling would be to separate the carton boxes (paper) from the LDPE (plastic). If not separated, it would be considered as a recycling contamination.

Recycling contamination is a growing problem that can undermine the effectiveness of recycling programs. Recycling when done incorrectly, might cause that batch of recyclables to be rejected and incinerated, instead of it being recycled.

Does recycling contamination matter in Singapore? Yes. Here are some reasons why avoiding recycling contamination is so important:

Contamination makes recycling difficult and impossible to handle
If the percentage of contaminants in a load of recyclables becomes too large, the items might be incinerated instead, resulting in less material being recycled.

Contamination causes unsafe and unhygienic work environments for those sorting your items
Recycling workers can be exposed to hazardous waste, bacteria and diseases, and other physically damaging items.
Example: Chemical wastes, toxic wastes, glass wastes and medical wastes that are not properly disposed of.

Contamination causes a monetary devaluation in recyclables
Paper, plastic, and metal have recycling values. If a contaminant is present, the quality of the recyclable is reduced, leading to less market value. With less market value, the incentive to recycle decreases, leading to lower recycling rates, and more wastes being incinerated.

To avoid recycling contamination, it is important to always follow recycling guidelines and ensure that only recyclable materials are placed in recycling bins. Here are some tips to avoid recycling contamination:

  • Know what materials are accepted for recycling
  • Ensure recyclables are clean
  • Ensure recyclables are of the same material

Reducing recycling contamination would greatly help increase the rate of recycling. The next time you recycle, remember to prevent contamination, every little bit counts!

Start recycling right today