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What happens to your plastic recycling?

No doubt some of you will have seen the BBC documentary series ‘War on Plastics’ recently. In it, campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall found evidence of plastic recycling from local authorities stockpiled in huge quantities in Malaysia. So, we asked Paul Beard, Contracts Manager (Waste Management) at Shropshire Council, what happens to the plastic waste collected from our homes.

Paul explains that plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays collected from the kerbside by Veolia as part of our household waste collection service are initially taken to Veolia’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at Four Ashes, near Wolverhampton. Here the plastics are separated from the cans and glass.

The MRF also separates out contaminants, i.e. material that is not sent on for recycling, e.g. plastic bags, film and food. The contaminants are sent to an adjacent Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) where they are burnt to generate electricity.

Paul estimates that in 2018 some 2,700 tonnes of Shropshire plastics was sent from the MRF to the next stage of processing which takes place in Veolia’s Plastics Recovery Facility in Dagenham, Essex. That would equate to about 17 tonnes from the parish of Llanymynech and Pant.

The Dagenham plant is more sophisticated and sorts the plastics into the various polymer types including HDPE and PET. The plastics are then turned into polymer specific pellets before being sold on to companies where they are used to make a range of products including plastic bottles, other types of plastic packaging, water butts, drainage pipes, and fleeces.

We asked Paul if some of the plastic from our homes was likely to end up in piles in Asia. He says that: “The vast majority of these companies are in the UK, but the plastic can be sold on to the open market like any other commodity and some is occasionally sold abroad.

“An important point here is that the material is sold on as raw material, and so wherever it goes we can be confident that it will be used for recycling as companies will not be paying for material just to dispose of it.”

Recycling plastics – and other materials – is much better than sending them to landfill or incineration, but reducing use is better still.

Here are a couple of links to more information: https://www.recyclenow.com/, https://www.ilovefreegle.org

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Pant.Today is published by Ethos public relations Ltd. The site is designed to be an asset for the community in the village of Pant in Shropshire as well as visitors and others.

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