Thanks For Trying, but Recycling Confusion Costs Us Dearly

A new campaign and exhibition commissioned by North London Waste Authority (NLWA) aimed at tackling recycling confusion and contamination entitled “Thanks for Trying” launches on 21st July in Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross.

Designed to provoke thought and discussion around our recycling habits, and help turn good intentions into better recycling, the project is curated by internationally acclaimed artist Mat Kemp  using weird and wonderful artefacts found in the recycling stream. “What we discard says a lot about us. They tell a story and we have the ability to give that story a more compelling ending.

An army helmet, dolls, reading glasses, mirrors and fairy wings are just some of the items that north Londoners have unsuccesfully tried to recycle in recent weeks.

Thanks for Trying by Mat Kemp
(credit Lucy Young)

“Thanks for trying but if in doubt, leave it out.” Consider passing items on to friends or neighbours, or use sites such as Freecycle and Freegle.


Thanks for Trying Campaign

North London Waste Authority (NLWA), the second largest waste disposal authority in the country,  has also commissioned new national polling which found almost 3 in 5 (58%) admit to putting items in the recycling that they’re not sure are actually recyclable. This was much higher amongst younger people – over 2 in 3 (69%) for 16-24 year-olds and 72% for 25-34 year olds.

Over a third (36%) of people put kitchen roll in their household recycling, 2 in 5 (43%) put broken drinks glasses and cookware in and 19% put black plastic bin bags in, even though none of these items can actually be recycled.

Last year, 15% of the materials collected in north London were contaminated with non-recyclables like nappies, food, and clothes. Black bin bags were the most common contaminant, found in over 500 loads – these regularly clog up machinery in the processing plants. The next common was textiles (490 loads), followed by food waste (432 loads) and electrical items (303 loads).

This meant 18,000 tonnes of household recycling had to go to waste. North London’s rejected recycling loads and associated costs is approximately £2 million pounds each year – paid for by the taxpayer.

Residents are also urged to check out the A-Z search of what you can recycle in north London at

Thanks for Trying by Matt Kemp

When: 20-23 July 2021 – Tuesday-Thursday 11am to 6pm (last entry 5.30pm), Friday 11pm-4pm (last entry 3.30pm)

Where: Kiosk N1C, 108 Lower Stable St, London N1C 4DQ

Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross.

Admission: Free 

Here are a few key actions which could make a significant difference to recycling rates not only in north London but across the country:

      • Make sure packaging is empty, and rinse off any food
      • Do not put black bin bags in with your recycling
      • Remember: textiles, electrics should never go in your home recycling collection
      • If you’re not sure whether something is recyclable, best to put it in the waste bin.

FInd out more about Mat Kemp, whose art he says is rubbish!