Recycle plastics thanks to GHS

Filed in Blog by on August 7, 2008 27 Comments
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recycle plastics
Every now and again you discover a real gem in life that puts a spring in your step and a smile on your face.

Last week we did some intensive searching on the Internet and found a company called G.H.S Recycling based in Portsmouth UK. GHS Recycling has been collecting and processing Cardboard, Paper and Plastics for recycling for over 25 years. They have also have been collecting, destroying and recycling Confidential Waste for their own customers and as subcontractors for National Waste Companies.  GHS’s latest endeavour is processing milk bottle tops for recycling. They do this for a number of small collectors and payment for the material is made to the charity of their choice.

GHS operates scheduled cardboard collections of various sizes of waste cardboard bales in the South of England. Customers vary from small shops and pubs to large corporations. These collections can be tied in with office waste collections if required.

GHS also collects and processes plastics for recycling

plastics recyclingMaterials collected are listed below

  • PP (Polypropylene)
  • PS/HIP (Polystyrene) Not Expanded Polystyrene yet
  • PVC
  • UPVC
  • PC (Polycarbonate)
  • LDPE (Polythene, wrap, sheet, bags)
  • Used Plastic Vending Machine cups

The plastics listed above cover the majority of waste packaging that we currently send to the landfill because up to now, we have not been aware of a service for recycling them. GHS could just be the final essential resource that allows us to go truly ZERO WASTE!

Big hoops of joy from MyZeroWaste Chez Green et al and a huge thank you to GHS recycling.

There was one thing we had to check out with GHS and that was how someone NOT in the South of England could benefit from their recycling scheme. They usually collect from companies and businesses and in much larger quantities than an an ordinary household can produce. Mmm… Sudden glimpses of rooms full of mounting plastic waste just waiting to get to that critical collection level. Not good.

A phone call and email to GHS Recycling cleared the clouds of doubt and out came the sunshine again. We asked if instead of collections, an ordinary householder could dispatch an amount of plastics waste to them.

We asked if we could publish this option on our website and here is the full email to GHS:

Following my last conversation with you, I am pleased to hear that you
would be happy receive collections of plastics waste sent to you be post
or carrier. As I explained, we are in process of doing a ‘zero waste’
challenge that involves responsibly disposing of  as many items by
recycling, as opposed to sending them to the landfill. In our area of
Gloucestershire, we have pretty good recycling facilities, except for
the type of plastics that you deal with.

We would like to promote your services on our website, in fact we would
like to encourage our members to send you their plastics in accordance
with your TOS. However, before doing this, I think I need to be sure
about how we should do this, so that you are not receiving lots of small
packages that will only increase your intake time.  I fully understand
that this would not be cost effective and maybe an abuse of your services.

Can you please give me guidlines for minimum weight/ volume packs that
you would be happy to receive by post or courier? Please bare in mind we
are not a business or company but represent a section of public who are
keen to dispose of their plastics responsibly. For example, in our own
home we would maybe use and store 100 x 1/2 ltr. yoghurt pots and then post
them to you, or maybe 4kg of plastic milk tops and post them to you. Is
this kind of thing acceptable, and would you be happy for us to suggest
this  on our website?

Many thanks for your help

And their response …. (drum roll)

“The amounts you have suggested will be fine with us.”

Roll out the red carpet for GHS!

Now, we are not fully out of the woods yet. When a service like this is discovered, we need to respect and honour it with utmost care. It does mean that we can now go almost completely Zero Waste in respect of normal every day life, but we do have to act in accordance with their terms of service and not send them piles of tiny plastic packages that would accumulate loads of time opening, sorting and administrating. This probably would not fare well with them and may even jeopardise their service.

How can we proceed?
First of all we need to visit GHS Recycling website and study the list of plastics that GHS Recycling can process and get an identification chart HERE For some of us, even small amounts like 4 kg of plastic milk tops may take many months to accumulate and you need storage room for all these items. All plastics must be clean, stripped of other materials and correctly classed. In addition, milk bottle tops also need to be properly prepared, by removing inner seals and labels. It might be a good idea if you have space to even consider offering a personal collection point and storage of items in your local community. We are going to apprach the Local council here and ask if they would provide an official collection point. Even one per region gives us the opportunity for a local 6 monthly trip to recycle those pesky plastics correctly.

Finally, if you are in any doubts about what or how to do this, give GHS a ring

Here’s a nice bonus for you all to consider;
The plastics milk bottle tops go to make children’s toys, garden furniture and more milk bottle tops. Money raised from collections go to a charity of your choice. Their paper shredding service produces animal bedding products for dog breeders and they buy and sell once used cardboard boxes for removals.  GHS are adding a vital service to their community and also contributing positive reuse of items from their processes.


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  1. russell says:

    This is great. It demonstrates how easily these plastics can be recycled. Our council takes them all in our doorstep collection so we are very lucky. Time to ask other councils why they are not doing the same. I am asking our council why they are not taking tetrapak when neighboring councils do. I would have thought it would be in the interest of councils to work together and share information as it will enable them all to meet their targets – it is not as if they are competing against each other in this area.
    Well do for finding this facility and making people aware of it. Mrs G must be have done her bunny dance for the rest of the day now she know she can continue her yogurt fetish!

  2. Ailbhe Leamy says:

    Oooooooh! That’s pretty exciting! I think I’ll email the council.

  3. Mrs Green says:

    Russell! You know me too well 😀
    Our council tells us that, as recycling is done by weight, plastics and cardboard are way down the list of priorities for us.
    It sounds like your council have some good practises in place though.

    Let us know how you get on, Ailbhe 🙂

  4. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    GHS Very interesting. There’s Macro recycling of things like glass, newspapers, tins etc. Councils are largely covering this. Big items, lots of, easy to mass.

    WRAP (Phillip Ward, Director of Local )has asked councilstoday what are the barriers to recycling. There are many obviously. I’d suggest what I’d term the “Micro recycling” (the little objects) that gets overlooked. Billions of red, blue and green plastic milk bottle tops for an example. Envelopes another. Batteries (even rechangables eventually). Biros. Bic Razors (I don’t use), DVD/Cds etcthe list endless. Needing a bit more though, a way of massing up numbers and people like GHS finding a market niche and a critical mass requirement in an area to viably close loop it.

    For anyone addicted to Pringles chips, and run out of 100 reuse avenues (I several pen holder and spaghetti tubes)for the tubes. Any recycle or redesign DT ideas of how to make a Pringles Tube (composite)for sustainable, and market the concept back to Gamble and Procter (jest)? Or is the only way is to go cold turkey on Pringles?

    Good find.

  5. Mr. Green says:

    Hello Rob; GHS cover a large range of plastics recycling inclucing many items that you mention. There are a few obstacles we are up against

    1- Identification of plastic items. The packaging industry still does not code every plastic componant, so we, the consumer can’t tell what it is. We are in process of trying to get information from various manufacturers to state what their componants are so that we can publish this here.

    2- Collection and sorting. If you saw that video about Kamikatsu, Japan, you will know that when a full recycling system is running, there is a full-on requirement to segregate all the materials, or else use technology to do this automatically. Tesco have a machine TOMRA that can electronically sort.

    3- The pringles question Pringle tubs could easily be made from a tetrapak construction, they are already very similar. To quote Tetrapaks recycling representative: “Due to the different composition gradients of our cartons compared to the Pringle tubs, they cannot be recycled together as the tubs would be classed as a contaminant.” Pringle manufaturers need to resolve this, as it is clear that a small shift in design could make their packaging compatible with tetrapaks recycling. In fact this ‘shift’ would accommodate many other dry pack food stuffs also, such as gravy granules, etc.

    Basically we have, the ability and the technology to do all the above, what’s missing is that ‘critical mass’ and political will to bring on the change in legislation and fashions to achieve this.

    Thanks for your comment.

  6. Martin Rudland says:

    Exeter City Council recycle plastic but you’ve done the follow up for me .

    It’s great . It needs growing .

  7. Mrs Green says:

    Hello Martin,
    Welcome to the site! It’s great that your council are recycling plastic and I’m glad we’ve managed to find you some useful information to continue with your recycling.
    Do you have a good kerbside collection in Exeter? And what sort of plastics can you recycle there at the moment?

  8. Mr Green says:

    Hi Martin, yes, so glad we’ve been able to add a piece to the jigsaw. I would like to know how many other companies around the UK are offereing a similar service to GHS recycling. Surely there are others? If so, local councils really need to tie in with these resources and work together to open up the service to domestic householders. One multi-compartment skip to receive the various plastics placed strategicaly in the region would be a great start.

  9. Hi Mr Green,

    The TOMRA can be used to refund money for returned cans and bottles. This is used in Norway to great effect. In UK, it must be worth considering adding a return value especially to aluminium cans to raise the poor recycling rate.
    Tesco’s use of a related machine is good as it may allow consumers to offload plastic waste at a convenient site.

  10. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    GHS do a fantastic plastic grades webpage, that all councils should spare a webpage/or link to this grade info. there is a degree of variability. For example, my council Norwich CC council post nothing on the thing. Plastics are plastics, containers aren’t flat mentality. South Norfolk post a page which is both awareness and educational; a response to a council question on the issue from NAIL2 in 2006 .

    Plastics are more complex, and wide public knowledge is key for further recycling than just high value HDPE/PET; and help a deeper market/quality control for specialist companies like GHS. I would be intersted in the UK how many of UK 350 councils have a plastics grade webpage/link?

  11. Mr. Green says:

    >> JC Yes I agree about incentive, although Im unsure that Tesco have the right handle on this. Too much incentive leads to profiteering, nontheless, it gets the job done. I would like to see a TOMRA in every large town/city.

    >>Rob That page on South Norfolk Council website is a good example of taking a proactive step towards dealing with plastics. The last para. is interesting though …

    “When manufacturers develop products that can be made from other types of plastic, we will start to accept them -such as Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Polystyrene (PS).

    At the moment no manufacturers want to use these other types of plastic, but we will let everyone know as soon as we can accept products made from them.”

    I wander if they know about GHS? Not exactly a local trip to Portsmouth however. Maybe GHS are fairly unusual and if so they need to share their model of success more widely amongst upcoming entrepreneurs in other regions.

  12. Sue says:

    Solihull council has some plastic recycling bins but not a home collection yet. I visited my nearest one a few miles away and found it wasn’t too clear on what could or couldn’t be put into it. It said only clear plastics bottles and shampoo bottles and no video cassettes or other things. That seems too little to me but at least its a start.They need to letter drop everyone to be clearer on it all.

  13. Mr. Green says:

    Hi Sue, I agree the mixed plastics recycling is a bit of a mess generally. Different councils have varying policies about what they can take. The root of the problem is that the concept of recycling plastic is relatively new. The plastics industry has grown up with little regard to recycling or reusing their products, in fact the reverse is true and nowdays it has been been developed to become so cheap that it regarded as a waste product after use. Consequently, we have a large array of mixed plastics used in food and packaging, all with different chemical constituents and properties. Recyling is an after thought that has only recently taken on significant importance.

    Local councils are very cost driven, so I guess where some of them see some political value in pushing the ‘Green and environmental values’, others will spend our council taxes on other community benefits. Unfortunately there is nearly always a political thread that drives these decissions on how to allocate resources and services. Government targets are set but regional councils act locally to interpret their individual needs to maintain popularity.

    The problem with mixed plastics recycling is that some people allow what can and can’t be recycled to cause confusion, so when they see a plastics recycling bank they just throw everything into it. I know 2 people who do this quite openly saying ‘Because mixed plastics recycling is so ambiguous, it’s beyond their expertise to sort and segregate.’ I have to admit that for a newcomer to recycling, the polymer codes are not clear enough and not clearly displayed on many items. In fact many plastic items don’t even show them at all. This is an area that seriously needs a boost both through political legislation and manufacturing standards.

    I guess until that happens, we need to lobby our local councils to realise that waste recycling is important enough to invest resources at it. Also to encourage investment into companies like GHS Recycling who ultimately make the whole plastics recycling process fesable and economically useful.

    The real answer is of course anything that cannot be recycled or reused should be designed out of the system An interesting article to peruse is from the Guardian called The big Cover up

  14. Mr Green says:

    This morning I spoke to a company called Recovered Plastics They deal with the actual recovery and processing of post-industrial plastics. A question about plastic milk bottle tops revealed that it is NOT necessary to remove the plastic top from the milk bottle before recycling. Apparently there is a stage during the recovery process where tops and labels are all removed. Keeping the top on the bottle may be useful as it allows you to compress the bottle to a small size and re-top to stop it expanding again. However, collecting milk bottle tops may be usefull if you are trying to raise money, as GHS Recycling will offer a fee for the charity of your choice.

  15. Kris says:

    You’re just trying to confuse me again Mr G aren’t you :o)

    I’ve just started up a (handy spare) plastic tub to collect my surplus milk bottle lids and am pleased to hear there is a final destination for them.

    Although maybe I can go back to super squishing the bottles with lids again – as ever I suspect it comes down to exactly which bins are and are not geared up for lids…

  16. Mr Green says:

    Oh, heck… I’m confused also so much conflicting information. I rather think that a guy at the ‘processing’ end of the recycling chain should know what is going on. I suspect the bottom line is it’s not essential to remove tops from these bottles, unless you want to collect them for charity purposes. In addition, on my visit to a drop centre today, I did not see a notice saying ‘YOU MUST REMOVE ALL PLASTIC LIDS FROM BOTTLES BEFORE DEPOSITING IN THESE BINS’ Sorry for the confusion, but I think it demonstrates a point that is endemic in plastics recycling.

  17. Mr. Green says:

    Another comment on plastic milk bottles recycled with tops on. It seems that ‘The Real’ problem is when plastic milk bottles are thrown into the recycling bin or the landfill without being squashed and the tops left on. This creates 2 main problems:

    1- The bottle takes up too much space that is mainly air trapped in the bottle. This is a wasteful use of space.
    2- Because of the cushioning effect of several bottles together in this state, even the bulldozers cant crush them.

    So, if you are going to leave tops on and this does not appear to be a problem when they are being reprocessed, please expel all the air out first, then screw the top back on.

  18. maisie says:

    Mr Green, Do you know if I could send the bottle tops from normal squash/pop bottles to GHS as well? Would they go in with the yogurt and margarine tubs.

  19. Hi Mr Green,

    I flatten these milk and juice bottles then replace the caps as well. Always have.

    Hi Maisie,

    GHS only want caps with numbered triangles last time I asked. 2,4 definitely maybe 1 as well.

  20. Mrs Green says:

    Maisie, hang onto those caps for a day or so will you? I have the perfect solution for these, it’s a real feel good warm and fuzzy story that will put them to great use 😉

  21. maisie says:

    I’m intrigued, can’t wait to hear what you’ve come up with.

  22. Lucy says:

    Hi – I know I am very behind the times on this post and I’m not sure you even check the old links but I wanted to make one quick point. The Councils and private companies that collect the plastics also ‘process them for recycling’. I.e. they sort them into the relevant grades etc ready to go to be recycled. But on the whole they do not actually undertake the recycling of the plastic. There are a few reprocessing plants in the UK (although only for certain types of plastic) but my understanding is that almost all recyclable plastic waste from residential collection is sent overseas (mostly to China) for recycling there.

    This is often why councils won’t offer a complete or mixed plastics recycling collection service. For certain grades of plastic the end market does not make environmental or economical sense. Also, very few plastics can be recycled into the same product. They are on the whole recycled into a lower grade and eventually cannot be recycled at all. Plastic milk cartons for example are shipped to China and made into fleece tops – now that’s food miles!

  23. Mrs Green says:

    @Lucy: HI Lucy, thanks for taking time to respond – never worry about the timeframe! Sending out plastics to China is a big issue isn’t it? At the moment WRAP endorse this as having less impact than landfilling in the UK. Can I ask is your comment from research or whether you’ve actually worked for a council / reprocessing company – you seem to know alot and I appreciate you sharing with us 🙂

  24. Rob Whittle says:

    Mr are correct in the critical mass concept, companies like Pringles rationalising their packaging to Tetrapack like composition. We see that LDPE is getting to critical mass whereby it becomes viable to recycle. If all plastic tops were rationalised to HDPE rather than PVC say for coffee jar tops, ketchup/sauce bottle tops..the likelihood of a critical mass could be better met. ie phase out PVC for bottles, use HDPE instead.

  25. Jane says:

    Why not also pack more things in plastic ‘bottles’ if at all possible? Put more emphasis on making the packaging recyclable than having an attractive package. You would hope that it was the contents that appealed most to the buyer not the shape.

    This is the first time I have seen this link and I do make an effort to search for the right place to post!

  26. Jane says:

    There are more things happening with recycling plastic.

    If the Chinese increase their plastics recycling targets at home then maybe they won’t want the plastic imported from the UK and particularly if it is not of a good quality.

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