Less is More – recycling & waste reduction in Hexham

Councillor Alison Smith  – Hexham Town Council

I am giving my age away here but as a child I used to get home from school and watch John Craven’s Newsround followed by Blue Peter on the nights it was on.  I have always been a big animal lover and I remember back then being horrified at how much Amazonian rainforest was being destroyed daily, explained in terms of the area of X number of football pitches.  Fast forward Approx. 40 years and I fear there can’t be much of it left.  I also decided from watching Newsround that I was going to save the Northern White Rhino which was in danger of extinction from poaching in Africa.  When I was 17, I applied to go university but also came across an opportunity for a live-in post in a recently established charity called Zoo Check, which later became the Born Free Foundation. 

The role was to be the dogsbody for the team responsible for travelling the world monitoring animal welfare in zoos but it had potential.  I received an invitation to go and visit from William Travers but I had just received an offer of a place at my first choice university and I accepted thinking ahead to a well-paid job. I declined William’s offer to visit the Born Free Foundation.  Frank Sinatra is not the only person to have regrets.  It is only recently that I made the connection that William Travers was the same man as Bill Travers, Sunderland born actor who starred as George Adamson alongside Virgina McKenna in the film Born Free and who together set up Zoo Check/Born Free Foundation – and I, like a clot, missed my chance.   I never saved the Northern White either.  Sudan, the last remaining male Northern White died in 2018.  I think two females remain which live, as Sudan did, with a 24 hour body guard.

Forward in time to February 2022 and we are now living in a world with a climate and biodiversity emergency and this is something no school child with a dream can solve. Having said that, Greta Thunberg is having a far better crack at it than I did.  Fear of the world we live in could easily lead to depression from a lack of control, fear that nobody is doing anything and worry that it is only those with money who are heard but we must not lose heart.  Good people are doing things about it, creating imaginative solutions.   There is amazing innovation going on around the world and we as individuals all have our part to play. 

So where was I heading with my regrets?  Well, to a realisation of what I can and cannot control.   I cannot change the past but I do have some control over my present and hopefully my future.  I can choose to engage or choose not to engage.  It’s easy to convince yourself not to engage, what is the point in me making an effort when it seems so many around me are not making any effort at all and more importantly, when those with actual power to make significant change are not doing so.  The thing is though, we can collectively make huge changes and at relative speed.  Covid has proven that. 

We can all only operate within our own sphere of influence however large or small that may be.  One way we can all contribute positively to our waste crisis without any direct cost is through recycling and it does genuinely make a difference.  Ideally we should be employing the other two Rs first by reducing and reusing but ultimately by recycling if there isn’t another option. 


My sphere of influence isn’t vast but I like to think that I do now take up opportunities when they arise.  I have control over my own domestic waste and recycling and also broadened my reach beyond my personal affairs when I opened an ‘eco home’ shop in Hexham in 2018.  Since then, the opportunity for standing for election to the Town Council came up and although it is something I never thought I would ever consider doing, I did recognise that opportunity.  Working alongside other likeminded councillors with a love of Hexham was a huge draw and I was delighted to be elected in May 2021 and to now have the opportunity to write this blog as a result of my election. Hexham Town Council (HTC) and Northumberland County Council (NCC) have both declared climate emergencies.  HTC is taking it a step further and including the biodiversity crisis.  Both councils are deeply committed to tackling climate change with plans for greater sustainability and reduction in carbon output.  NCC has declared it aims to halve the county’s carbon footprint by 2025 and make the county carbon neutral by 2030.  As residents of Hexham and Northumberland we are all tied into those aims and can all do our bit to help achieve these collective goals.

Shortly after opening the shop I registered it as a drop off point for a couple of Terracycle waste recycling schemes.  The beauty of these schemes is that materials which are not recyclable via local council schemes can be recycled by Terracycle.  We have been a Terracyle drop off point ever since but that is shortly to end as Terracycle are focussing on larger drop off points at supermarkets.  From the end of March 2022 we will no longer be taking crisp packets and biscuit wrappers for recycling.  Although this feels a little sad as it has been a part of the shop from the start it is actually a very positive move.  More people pass through supermarkets so there is a much wider reach and it will hopefully bring more and more people on board with soft plastic recycling.  During our time as a Terracycle drop off point we have donated the proceeds we have accrued to Pennines Wildlife Rescue so as well as increasing recycling locally, our chosen charity has benefitted financially.  

I am often asked in the shop for advice on where and how to recycle in Hexham.  I’m absolutely no expert but I have gathered together some information which I will offer here.  It is in no way complete and if anyone can add more options please do get in touch and let me know, I am always eager to extend it.  Here is my summary of what can be recycled in and around Hexham:


Northumberland County Council kerbside waste collection:

Please check the NCC website for what is currently acceptable in domestic recycling bins.  The list is basically, cardboard, newspapers, magazines, clean food and drink cans, empty aerosols (lids removed), all plastic bottles including cleaning products (trigger sprays and pumps can be left on, or kept for re-use).   Metal lids from jam jars, cooking sauces etc. can also go in your recycling bin.  Please don’t put things in recycling hoping for the best and that it will be ok.  It most likely won’t.  IF IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT.  You might feel bad putting things in your general waste but it is better to do that than potentially contaminate a batch of recycling. Foil trays should go in general waste, unwashed. The energy recovery process creates a bottom ash from which aluminium and steel can be extracted for re-use. The burning of general waste is used to generate electricity.  Northumbrian waste is incinerated not sent to landfill.

Use a compost heap if you can for uncooked veg peelings, fruit peelings, tea leaves (remove from bag if using tea bags.  Most tea bags contain plastic which won’t compost – better to use loose leaf if you can), coffee grounds, shredded paper and hair from hairbrushes.  Remove any stickers from fruit before putting in the compost and bin the sticker.  Real cork from wine bottles can be composted, repurposed for crafts (who hasn’t planned to make a cork notice board?!) or taken to Matthias Winter.  We send them to a social enterprise which re-purposes them.  If you want to compost them at home, cut in half carefully – if it crumbles it is real cork and can be crumbled and composted.  If it is plastic it needs to go in the bin, or, they can all be upcycled and made into coasters/trivets/message boards.  NCC sell compost bins and wormeries.  T: 0844 571 4444.  NCC are currently investigating hot composting bins which speed up the composting process.  They may be available to purchase via NCC in the not too distant future.

Bokashi bins allow you to turn ALL kitchen waste into nutrient rich compost.  Meat, fish, dairy products and cooked foods are added to the bin with bokashi bran which acts as a compost activator, pathogen suppressor and eliminates bad smells.  Cooked and uncooked foods are fermented in a small kitchen composter which is then transferred to a traditional compost bin and won’t attract vermin in its partially composted state.  I haven’t tried one of these bins but intend to do soon.  Prices vary but seem to vary between £30 and £100.  Often sold in pairs.

Garden waste bins can be hired via Northumberland CC for hedge clippings, grass, weeds, leaves and small branches.  Approx. £45 per year.

Almost a daft suggestion but if you visit friends/family in other parts of the country with better recycling facilities, save items if you have the ability to store them and take with you when visiting.

Reduce waste by mending/darning at home if possible.  Support your local cobbler and businesses offering clothing alterations.  Sew N Sew on Hallstile Bank will adjust/alter clothing.  Derek’s Shoe bar on St Mary’s Chare will do the same for shoes.  Ralph & Mimi in the Market Place offer sewing lessons from beginners to advanced.  Making and mending/altering clothes helps to keep them in use and out of the waste bin.  Wabi Sabi studio also offer sewing and mending classes on Priestpopple in Hexham. Their stitch kitchen invites you to learn how to revamp, revive and repair your wardrobe.

Higher Ground in Allendale periodically hold repair cafes where you can get broken electrical/other items repaired and tools sharpened – all with the aim of keeping items in use, out of the bin and not needing to be replaced.

Non-recyclable waste in Northumberland is taken to an ‘Energy from Waste’ plant at Stockton where it is used to general electricity for supply to the National Grid.  NCC’s waste generates enough electricity to power a town the size of Morpeth for a year.

The information here has been collected locally or from the NCC document:  ‘What are the target materials for Northumberland recycling bins? Which you can find with a Google search.

There is a good website called www.recyclenow.com which tells you what you can recycle at home and locally based upon your postcode.  It also has a section where you can search on an individual item to see if it can be recycled in your area.

There is a Hexham Facebook group called Hexham Re-Use & Recycle.  Great for keeping items in use.  No cost involved, no promotion of businesses just freebies kindly offered and gratefully received.


MATTHIAS WINTER, 15 Hallstile Bank can take:

Used stamps (donated to Kirkwood Hospice in Huddersfield where my father died).

Ink Jet cartridges (proceeds donated to North East charity Being Woman which supports refugees).

Used uncoloured candle wax (given to Hexham Abbey which uses the wax to make new candles and raise proceeds for the Abbey).

Wine corks (processed by a social enterprise company and repurposed/sold for crafting purposes).

Used/unwanted bras – please take to Gail at Petals on Market Street.  They are sent to Africa and given to needy ladies to sell at markets and generate income.

Coffee cups – the best option is to use a reusable cup but if you do have a single use paper cup Costa will take any plastic lined cup (not the plastic lids, they have to go in the bin).  They are sent for processing to Cumbria and turned into writing paper.

Egg boxes – egg boxes purchased from Shield Green market stall in the Shambles (Market Place) can be returned for re-use.

Fruit punnets – return fruit punnets bought from the fruit & veg stall in the Market Place to the stall.

Glasses – please take to Specsavers on Fore Street.  Glasses only please, NO CASES. Specsavers work with Vision Aid Overseas.  Glasses are recycled to raise money to transform access to eye care in developing countries and to tackle poverty.

Hygiene products – please take unwanted personal care products/gifts to Boots on Fore Street.  Items can also be donated.  Boots collect donations for the Hygiene Bank which requests donations of:   toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo/conditioner, shower gel, razors, shaving foam, deodorant, hairbrushes and hair ties, nit combs and shampoo, sanitary products, nappies, baby wipes, toilet roll, laundry detergent.

Plastic pens, including felt tip pens/markers – please drop off at Penfax on Market Street.  Penfax send them for recycling via Terracycle.

Rags – unsaleable fabric and damaged/unuseable books can be taken to the Cancer Research shop (and probably other charity shops) and sold for rags.  Please mark bags as rags so the bags don’t need to be sorted through.  Clothing, towels, sheets, curtains, shoes and belts can all be sold for rags but NO DUVETS PLEASE.

Used towels – RSPCA shop, Battle Hill.  They are used as bedding for animals.


Books and media:  Readable books, playable CDs, playable DVDs, playable computer games – please take to Hexham tip or Wentworth car park.

Soft plastic can now be dropped off for recycling at supermarkets.   The Co-op is the most recent supermarket to accept all soft plastics from crisp/biscuit wrappers to fruit punnet wrappers and coffee bags.

Tesco and Waitrose are drop off points for soft plastic.  Inside Tesco you can deposit used make up containers, water filters, inkjet cartridges, batteries and energy saving light bulbs.

Marks & Spencer:  Donate at least one item of M&S labelled clothing or soft furnishings to Oxfam and you’ll receive a voucher for £5 off when you spend £35 in participating M&S stores.  M&S take back used M&S coat hangers.

Furniture, housewares, bikes: adult/child – Core furniture, Haugh Lane, Hexham, NE46 3LF.  Items are collected for free.  Delivery for purchases £5 – £15

Tynedale Hospice at home, Bridge End Industrial Estate, Hexham will also take furniture and household items.

Clothing (saleable) – in addition to taking clothing directly to your charity shop of choice there are clothing bins at the Co-op and the Marks & Spencer car park (cross the roundabout) and at the tip.

Textiles for recycling (non-saleable):  Wentworth car park/tip:  All clothing, sheets, blankets, curtains, handbags and belts (NOT: duvets, pillow, carpets, rugs, bric a brac.

 Glass – Wentworth car park and tip

Cardboard boxes – Fourstones paper mill

Tetrapack – tip

Pringles tubes- tip


Writing instruments: any brand of pen, marker, highlighter, correction fluid – Corbridge Middle School (Can also be dropped at Penfax in Hexham who pass them on to Corbridge)

Disposable contact lenses and blister packs (you don’t have to have bought them from C & G) – Croft & Graves Optometrist, Corbridge

Allendale Primary School – check on Terracycle website for a complete list of what can dropped at Allendale as it is quite extensive.  The list includes:  all oral care products; toothbrushes, electric brush heads, toothpaste.

Garnier products

Hair colourant kits

Plastic roll on deodorants


Recyke your bike, Newcastle.  Deliver your donation to Newcastle or they will collect.

T: 0771 170 5125             Email:  ngbarnes@icloud.com

Body shop and Lush at the Metrocentre/Newcastle will take own brand empty plastic tubs, tubes and pots.

Allendale, Slaley and Humshaugh all have recycling schemes available in their areas.  Contact the village shops for more details if you live nearer to those places than Hexham.

If ever you need boxes for packing, storage etc. ask around the independent shops.  We are always receiving deliveries packaged in cardboard boxes.  There are only so many we can use and the remainder end up at Fourstones Paper Mill.   If you can use/re-use packing boxes and keep them out of recycling that’s even better.

Hexham tip (household waste recycling centre doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily)

Opening times:       Nov-March:  8am to 6pm          April – Oct:  8am to 7.30pm

There is a small charge for rubble, soil, plasterboard and ceramic fittings.

Wood (no MDF or branches)

Green waste (grass, turf and soil, small branches, tree trunks – no bags)

Rubble:  bricks, concrete, tiles/ceramics (no bags, soil, plasterboard or wood)

Plasterboard only (NO bags or wood)

Mixed textiles and shoes: all clothing, all household textiles; sheets, blankets, towels, curtains, handbags and belts.  NOT duvets, pillows, carpets, rugs, bric-a-brac

Books & Media: Readable books, playable CDs, playable DVDs, playable computer (no magazines, damaged or wet items, tapes/videos, vinyl records

Tetra-pak:  paper-based liquid food and drink cartons – take off plastic lids


TVs and monitors

Used engine oil


Rigid plastics: plastic toys, plastic furniture, plastic crates.  (NO UPVC, mental, plastic bags, electrical items)

Mixed recycling:  newspapers, magazines, food and drink cans, plastic bottles (no cardboard)

Food and drink cans, paper, plastic bottles (as home recycling)

Glass bottles and jars only

Scrap metal

Small electricals

Fridges and freezers

Car batteries

Household batteries

Fluorescent tubes

Mobile phones

Light bulbs

Printer cartridges


Reduce, reuse, repair, recycle

Other schemes to consider:

Too Good to Go app.  Take away food retailers send out alerts when they have reduced food prices towards the end of the day.

Investigate www.fatllama.com which is a sharing site for communities to share items such as power tools. 

Olioex.com:  Share more, waste less:  “Helping neighbours share food and other things, rather than chuck them away.  It’s fast, free and friendly”.

Ask your favourite takeaways if you can collect your food in your own containers rather than in their plastic or aluminium containers.

Look out for another Swish event at Trinity Methodist Church on Beaumont Street.  No entry fee.  Take along unwanted clothes and swap them for something else.

Repair days – organised by Higher Ground in Allendale to repair small electricals and textiles.

Open a current account with an ethical bank such as Triodos Bank.  An ethical bank which only invests in ethical projects.  £3/month fee


Do what you can but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t.  If you have the financial means avoid plastic.  Buy packaged food in glass or stainless steel containers if there is an option.  Try to keep in mind that there is a demand for recycled glass, aluminium and stainless steel – less so with plastic.


Oh, and read the children’s book The Lorax by Dr Seuss, it’s prophetic.

If you have children have a listen to the lovely Jack Johnson: reduce, reuse, recycle – 3R song.  Actually, just listen to Jack Johnson anyway whatever age you are.

My recycling in Hexham document for reference can be found on the shop website: www.matthiaswinter.co.uk

Slightly going off the subject but I don’t want to miss the opportunity on these:

Prior to Covid rearing its ugly head I was discussing with NCC waste management about arranging a Matthias Winter trip to the waste management centre at West Sleekburn.  I’m happy to organise a coach trip and make an event of it! If you would be interested in coming along just pop in the shop or email me:  info@matthiaswinter.co.uk

Litter pickers can be borrowed from the shop at any time if you fancy a stroll around town or where you live and would like to do your bit to keep the area clean.  Feeling engaged and taking pride in our community is a great way to improve the environment for everyone.  I periodically organise litter picks via the shop for the Surfers Against Sewage campaigns in conjunction with the Hexham Clean and Green Group.  We have a SAS litter pick coming up on the morning of Saturday 23rd April at Tyne Green.  I am delighted that the Hexham Wombles litter picking group organised by Hexham Town Councillor and County Councillor Suzanne Fairless Aitken will also be joining us.  If you would like to join our happy throng of Winters and Wombles just let me know via the shop.

Please consider deleting unnecessary emails and photos from your phones and computers.  Apparently huge amounts of energy go into storing these on massive servers around the world.

If you have read to the end of this, thank you so much and if you pop into the shop and say hello I’ll give you a free smile!  It’s not easy trying to maintain interest after 3,000 words on recycling!