Recycling in Exeter
10th September 2015
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There has been criticism recently that Exeter’s recycling rate remains low by UK standards and has fallen in the last year. But how can this be the case when Exeter has a UK reputation for being an environmentally conscious city?

“Does Exeter deserve its Green reputation?” asked Cllr Keith Owen, Lead Councillor for Environment. “I would argue that it does, but there is more we could all do to improve things. Research shows that the majority of people in Exeter use the glass banks across the city, and in terms of glass, cans, plastics, card and paper we compare very favourably with other Devon authorities. To me this demonstrates that the citizens of Exeter are environmentally minded and motivated to recycle and reduce waste.

Although our data reveals that a lot of recycling is still ending up in the black bin, the largest part of that waste is organic waste (35%). At the moment we don’t have a separate food waste collection like our neighbouring authorities, and this is the primary reason why our recycling rates compare less favourably.”

Exeter is among a handful of Local Authorities that manage its own Materials Reclamation Facility (MRF). The recycling is both mechanically and hand sorted, which is why glass or food is not included in the green bin collection.

"All the revenue from the sale of recyclates from green bins goes directly back into supporting other services for residents, instead of being passed over to the private sector – which is another good reason to not put recycling in the black rubbish bins!” added Cllr Owen.

"The MRF team works hard to ensure that as much as possible is recycled, including things that neighbouring authorities can’t handle, such as all plastic trays and wrapping. This may be confusing to some people, puzzled at just what can go in their green bin. The trick is not to over-think it, instead we keep it simple - all household plastic and packaging; all paper and card; and all cans, tins and aerosols can go into the green bin. However, we estimate that we could double the amount of recycling that we collect in Exeter if everyone could just think about their green bin first before the black rubbish bin.”

In terms of the overall quality of Exeter’s recyclates, which has a high reputation in the recycling industry, it helps if everyone can rinse out their empty cans and tubs – it only needs to be a light rinse, perhaps using the dirty water at the end of washing-up. ‘However, if that’s a problem for some people, we’d rather have an un-rinsed empty can then no can," added Cllr. Owen.

What else can citizens do to help? Reduce and reuse. Although Exeter’s recycling figures leave room for improvement, the amount of total waste produced as a city is low by UK and Devon comparisons.

Recycling percentages are calculated by weight and the Council has found that approximately a third of the weight of rubbish bins in Exeter is organic waste. This is waste that could be composted or food waste that could be avoided.

“Whilst we are still looking into financially viable ways to introduce a food waste collection, people can do their bit and save money by reducing food waste, and composting,” said Cllr Owen.

The Council provides discounted composters which can be bought for £9 or £10, depending on size. Just call the Environmental Support Team on 01392 265010. These usually cost around £20-£30 and for a limited period the Council will deliver them to homes free of charge, for the duration of the Rugby World Cup 2015. The Council also has a popular garden waste collection service at £28 (small bin) or £38 (large bin) per annum.

Visit for more information on how to achieve this. is also full of ideas to reduce waste, reuse things and save money. For more information about recycling in Exeter visit

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Dave B

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