24 February 2022

The University of East London (UEL) and Newham Council collaborated during the February half term to educate school-aged children and their parents on waste disposal.

The University and Council visited eight libraries across the London Borough of Newham with over 150 people playing the 'rubbish game' The game was designed by the University to tackle a phenomenon known as 'wishcycling', which see people put items in the recycling bin trusting they will be recycled, without any scientific evidence to confirm their assumptions.

Wishcycling can lead to situations where bags of recycling are no longer fit to be recycled because they have been contaminated by food or mixed with materials that simply cannot be recycled, in turn generating tonnes of additional waste not getting recycled.

Mimi Cedrone, sustainability manager at UEL, said, "Unfortunately, when people get it wrong a whole bin of recycling can end up going to general waste when it really doesn't have to. A lot of the recycling issues are caused by learned habits and behaviours that are hard to change.

"The rubbish game we created at UEL makes people take some time to think about waste disposal. By gamifying the process people take that extra five seconds to read the packaging to see what can and cannot be recycled within your local authority, and to think about the components in the products they are throwing away.

"If someone does not know where to put an item when they're done with it , residents in Newham can use Recycleopedia to look up household items and find out what bin they go in.  If you can't recycle your item at home you can find recycling points at locations like shops and supermarkets by visiting the London Recycles website."

The rubbish game consists of a range of common household items that people often dispose of incorrectly, with players asked to pick five items and put them in the right bin with points for correct disposal. The biggest offenders are items like face masks, coffee cups and sweet wrappers which are often put in recycling bins, when in fact they cannot be recycled due to the mixture of, or type of materials, they contain.

The rubbish game was also an opportunity for the Newham's public realm engagement team to inform their residents of recent positive changes to recycling in the borough, as items such as clean aluminium foil, clean plastic pots tubs and trays, empty aerosols and empty glass bottles and jars can now be recycled in household recycling bins.   

Waste prevention and recycling team leader at Newham Council, Ruma Jana, said, "At the Council, our engagement team does a lot of community outreach work to help communicate important recycling changes to residents and local businesses, and to help them understand the importance of waste disposal.

"Partnering with the University of East London was a great experience as by working together we can engage and educate younger generations on what is an important sustainability issue. By targeting children and students we are helping to create future generations with good waste disposal habits, which is important for the future of our planet and will help to make Newham a cleaner, greener and a better place to live and work."

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