Sex toys and cooking oil: Inside Dagenham’s recycling centre

13:00 21 September 2016

Frizlands Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre, Rainham Road North. Ben Wilde, Will Paton, and Siddiq Khan.

Frizlands Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre, Rainham Road North. Ben Wilde, Will Paton, and Siddiq Khan.


A koala toy perched forlornly on a bin is not the only unexpected item that has been found at the borough’s sole recycling depot.

Frizlands Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre, Rainham Road North.Frizlands Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre, Rainham Road North.

Ben Wilde, waste minimisation supervisor at Frizlands Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre, admits he has heard “all kinds of horror stories” in his four years at the Dagenham site – including the sighting of a boa constrictor in a nearby plant.

“People put the weirdest things in all the time,” laughed the 27-year-old. “You also find sex toys surprisingly often.”

But here, where residents can dispose of everything from used cooking oil to clothes, fluorescent tubes and fridges, items usually emerge far cleaner than the mixed recycling more commonly collected from our doorsteps – partly due to the unmistakeable signposting for different materials.

Between contractors Shanks Group and East London Waste Authority (ELWA), each of the different materials has its own “offtaker”, a company which buys the materials by the tonne and repurposes or sells them on.

Frizlands Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre, Rainham Road North.Frizlands Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre, Rainham Road North.

In the last financial year, nearly half of the 18,810 tonnes of waste was sent on for recycling elsewhere.

Some objects will be spotted again closer to home – such as the tens of bikes which emerge back on cycle paths via charities such as The Re-Use Partnership, which fixes bikes among other objects to give them a second lease of life.

Looking at the many residents disposing carefully of their waste at the site, it’s difficult to believe that the borough currently boasts one of the capital’s worst recycling rates.

The 23.4 per cent figure is less than half of the 50pc target that European countries are supposed to reach by 2020.

But Ben believes there are grounds for optimism.

“It’s not all doom and gloom – residents are getting better at recycling,” he said. “Our aim is six pc reduction per year, which would take us to 31 pc by 2020.

“We are hoping to make it as easy as possible for them to recycle.”

The cost of recycling may seem high, but the £11m spent on waste disposal is not just for recycling.

“The way to think about it is if we didn’t recycle we’d still be spending the money,” Ben added.

“It would be more expensive just to deposit waste, and this is much better for the environment.”

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