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Leeds, glass recycling and #binnovation

When it comes to #binnovation, we've got previous in Leeds.

As Tom Forth explores here, ODI Leeds have played a part in previous pieces of work in Leeds, exploring how we can use open data to increase recycling and reduce waste - including exploring how to improve the placement of litter bins across the city centre - building on the #LeedsByExample on-the-go recycling project.

And of course Leeds residents have access to the Leeds Bins app - reminding us all which bin to put out when, whilst also making it easier for us to find our nearest glass banks.

Much of this work has been made a whole lot easier by ready access to open data - on the locations of litter bins for example.

Another waste-related dataset on Data Mill North relates to the location of glass banks and other recycling banks across Leeds.

Crucially, the amount of glass collected each month at each of the glass banks is shared too - and it was this dataset that helped Zero Waste Leeds to begin exploring a new campaign to encourage people to recycle their glass.

We'd heard anecdotal evidence of big increases in the amount of glass recycled in the early months of lockdown last year. So we had a look at the data that was shared on Data Mill North - and sure enough, there were massive year-on-year increases in the amount of glass collected at glass banks in Leeds - up 60% on the year before in those early months when all the pubs were closed.

We did a bit of analysis of the data and shared it with BBC Look North - who ran a story about the increase.

We helped them to tell the story of what happens next to the glass. It's a great Yorkshire circular economy story - with the 12000 tonnes of glass recycled in Leeds during 2020 being taken to Knottingley, to be processed and then added to the mix at furnaces in Yorkshire that make bottles and jars.

Adding recycled glass to the mix reduces the amount of energy that's needed - and it also reduces CO2 emissions. And when you realise there are 17 glass furnaces operating 24 hours a day across Yorkshire, those savings can soon add up.

Following on from the BBC story, we started discussions with British Glass, local glass manufacturers Ardagh Glass and Allied Glass, and glass recyclers URM Group - to explore creating a campaign to encourage people to keep recycling their glass in Leeds, on the back of the 37% increase in glass recycling during 2020.

With funding from British Glass, Allied Glass and Ardagh Glass, we're currently running a social media campaign which tells the story of the environmental impacts of recycling - whilst also making it easier to find your local glass bank. Using the open data shared by Leeds City Council, our map tells you how much glass was recycled at your local bank last year - and the environmental impact of all that recycling.

And of course, with the data being shared openly, we'll be able to keep track of how much glass is being recycled in Leeds, and, to an extent, whether our campaign is having an impact.

It's likely that recycling volumes will drop again this year - as lockdown had such a significant impact on where we were eating and drinking during 2020. But with open data shared on Data Mill North from 2016 onwards, we'll be able to look at longer term trends - and we're confident that we will see an increase on previous years' recycling rates.

Rob Greenland is co-director of Zero Waste Leeds. You can find out more about the glass recycling campaign here. Their other main project is Leeds School Uniform Exchange.