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Does you business take in plastic waste? Do you need to know how to recycle it, and get the best rebates for it?

I wrote this article for Skip Hire Magazine and it was published in February 2018, I thought it might be helpful to add it to my blogs. I hope it helps understand how plastic can best be recycled, from the mess that arrives at site.

Types of plastic waste

Plastics come in all shapes and sizes and some are easier than others to deal with – much like bosses 😉   At one end of the spectrum you have rigid plastics, at the other end are films and in-between are flexibles. In the right format all of these are recyclable.  Did you know uPVC window frames can be recycled an estimated 18 times – that’s a life of over 300 years!

Types of rigid plastics

The term “plastics” is so broad. With rigid plastics alone the main types are PE, PP, PC, ABS, PVC and that’s before you even start to contemplate the world of “engineering plastics”.  But then there’s the added complexity of manufacturing process, which affects recyclability – such as injection moulding, blow moulding, rotational moulding, etc!

What to do: segregate

So you want to know what’s good stuff then – well there are plenty of people dealing in plastic films and we all know the 98:2, 95:5 grades well enough. But when it comes to rigid plastics many of us are left floundering around.  The biggest key is SEGREGATION. If you have a decent enough amount of one type of rigid plastic then it probably has value.  For example, if you regularly get utility pipe in, then stick it in a 40 yarder and when it’s full get it recycled.

What to avoid

As with most things there are real dogs….things that look great on the outside but are a bit rough when you get into them!  I’m talking about rigid plastics still!  Take, for example road barriers, plastic pallets and dolavs, sometimes these are great – but more often than not they are “filled” with sand, concrete or worse.  This makes them un-recyclable – unless you can remove the contamination.

What to target

We all like an easy win. So here’s a list of things that you should easily be able to sell to a reputable rigid plastic recycler – wheelie bins (wheels and metal removed); buckets and barrels (cleaned and metal handles removed); trays and crates (remember polymer types need segregating); utility pipe (marked PE80 or PE100)

What to do: keep your promise

Seriously though – what are your options?  In the last 5 years the UK shipped over 2.7 tonnes of waste plastic to China. That is no longer an option. As of 2015 nearly 5 billion tonnes of plastic waste has accumulated in landfills or the natural environment worldwide (inc the oceans). This cannot continue!  Historically 12% of plastic waste has been incinerated (which produces all kinds on noxious gases) and only 9% has been recycled.  Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator.  Many “recycling facilities” quote a “zero to landfill” promise, but with that promise comes great responsibility – and effort.  Time to roll your sleeves up again, I’m afraid!

What to do: Make money

If you deal with post consumer waste, then segregating it is going to be difficult – and that is a whole issue in itself. But if some of your waste is from a known source, is of a decent quantity, or is on-going, then segregating it and selling it to a specialist plastic recycler directly should net you and your business both environmental kudos and cash in the bank.

What to do: keep it clean

Cleanliness is next to godliness – (aka keeping excessive crap out of your plastic waste) will add the most to your bottom line!  We all know that recycling facilities are dirty places, but too much mud and other contamination will render your valuable waste, worthless.

Soon to be law!

And let’s not forget, it’ll all soon be law. On 11 January 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to eradicate all of the UK’s avoidable plastic waste by 2042, as part of the government’s 25-year Environment Plan.  Good luck with that one Mrs. May! But in the meantime we need to get our houses in order and sort this almighty mess out.

What to do: put into action

So finally …

Find a trustworthy partner for the recycling of your plastic waste (me, me me!!!).  Arm them (me?) with as much information as possible on each waste stream (including pictures). Work together and understand what you can do for the benefit of your business, your local environment and, let’s face it, the planet as a whole!