Wednesday 5 October 2022

When is Plastic Recyling not a Good Idea?

Recycling is a good thing (though not as good as reducing usage or re-using items). 

But sometimes plastic recycling means rich countries sending plastics to poorer countries that can't cope with the load. So some of the plastics we think we're recycling, end up polluting rivers and oceans on the other side of the world. Read this article and then consider asking your local council what actually happens to the plastic you put into the recycling bins. 

In addition, can you reduce the amount of plastic you use? But think carefully, some foods (cucumbers for example) keep much better when wrapped in plastic, so plastic can genuinely reduce food waste. Though if you can do small, regular shops then you are more likely to be able to refuse plastic wrapping without finding that your vegetables go off. (Every week, I buy the vegetables I think I'll need for that week and avoid plastic packaging as much as possible and I find very little food waste.) More and more shops these days allow you (or encourage you) to take in your own containers to refill, thus avoiding the need for new plastic containers.

An 'eco-friendly' canvas carrier bag uses much more energy in its production than does a single use plastic carrier bag. You need to reuse a cotton / canvas carrier bag 150 times before it has less of a carbon footprint than a single use plastic carrier. So, avoid the temptation to buy a new eco-carrier bag every time you see one advertised as supporting your favourite environmental charity / trendy arts venue / ethical shop and use the same one over and over. I have some canvas carrier bags that I've had for years. I wash them regularly and they are great!

I asked City of Edinburgh Council what happens to the plastics that I put in our local recycling bins and they directed me to this link, which explains how the council ensures that plastics are actually recycled and don't end up polluting rivers on the other side of the world.  

I also asked the Co-op what happens to the soft plastics that we put into their new collecting bins and this is the reply I received: 

"Soft plastics are collected by our recycling partner, Jayplas. The material is sorted into different polymer types and is sent on to extrusion sites in the UK where they are recycled into usable plastic pellets. Polyethylene typically is used to make bags and sacks. Polypropylene is used to make rigid items such as stacking crates, and buckets. Mixed plastics are recycled into plastic ‘wood’ which is used to make boards for the construction industry. Any contamination and non-target materials are incinerated for energy recovery".

So, if you live in Edinburgh or shop in the Co-op, you can be sure that plastic you put in the recycling bins does get recycled. If you live elsewhere, then please contact your council to find out what actually happens to the local plastic recycling.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Thanks, I have been thinking of having this conversation with our local govt to find out where the recycled plastics go. Sadly, glass is seldom recycled over here as the shipping is too prohibited.