Hard plastics recycling in the UK

Filed in Blog by on June 11, 2012 12 Comments
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Hard plastics recycling in Suffolk

Hard plastics recycling in Suffolk

I know you shouldn’t envy your friends – though shalt not covet and all that, but I don’t mind admitting to a bit of the green-eyed monster regarding our zero waste heroine Mrs Average.

Over in her neck of the woods (Suffolk in case you’re wondering) they have hard plastics recycling!That means all the redundant patio furniture, broken kids’ toys, the myriad of plastic gardening pots that end up cracking and erm, even plastic toilet seats can be given a new lease of life at their Household recycling centres.

Just think of *that*!

Apart from a bit of film packaging from food, every household could be virtually zero waste!

Now I know there is a bit of uncertainty about household recycling centres. The question on everybody’s lips is “What really happens to my recycling?” Come on, admit it – we’ve all wondered whether it actually ends up in landfill, burned or shipped off to China.

To put an end to all this suspicion, Mrs Average hot footed it, along with her local council’s waste management provider (FCC Environment) up to EMR & MBA Polymers to do a spot of filming. They discovered that not only are these companies creating recycled plastic that matches the quality of virgin polymer, but the procedure uses only 10% of the energy required to make equivalent polymers from oil; contributing to a saving of almost 3 tonnes of CO2 emissions per tonne of plastics produced.

The proportion of hard plastic materials that are currently recycled is far smaller than for any other recyclable material and many household plastic items are still ending up in landfill. Since 2011 all household recycling centres in Suffolk have had hard plastic recycling facilities.

They have diverted over 2800 tonnes of this material from landfill since 2010.

If you watch the video you’ll see the entire journey from recycling centre to end product: From the household recycling sites, hard plastics are taken to EMR in Liverpool docks; the largest site of its type in Europe. Here the first stage of the recycling happens – removing metal contamination. After that the material is taken to MBA polymers in Nottinghamshire.

At MBA polymers, the polymers are separated, remaining contaminants are removed and the material is turned into pellets which are then used to make recycled products for the construction and horticulture industries as well as rigid packaging. It seems that eventually MBA polymers want to target the car manufacturing industry.

Take a look at the video; it’s inspiring and features cutting edge technology and our favourite eco heroine looks magnificent!

Now, if we could get this facility rolled out across the UK I might be a happy bunny…

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth’s fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (12)

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  1. Val says:

    We have hard plastic recycling in Norfolk too. It’s fantastic, there are only so many things you can do with yoghurt pots, meat trays and other food containers for example. I don’t think it’s publicised at all well and only known by regular users of the recycling centre. So much must be put in residual general waste bins that could be recycled – especially the small stuff.

  2. maisie says:

    we have hard plastic recycling at out HWRC in Lincolnshire as well.

    we are looking at putting up a fence and have been researching posts, there is now a fence post said to be stronger than concrete made from 90% recycled plastic.

  3. Julie Day says:

    What a great idea. I hope it spreads across the country.

  4. sandy says:

    our local council ahs just started tht too, so many box’s now LOL brillant

  5. Oh yeah … I’m envious … especially since recycling in my town has taken a huge step backwards. Hopefully someone here will get interested in what’s happening in Suffolk and jump on that bandwagon. On a positive note for people in my area … local environmental groups have put together a quarterly recycling program for all the things which the curb-side pick-up program won’t take. They’ll take everything including Styrofoam. Then, they find companies and individuals who will use the stuff … Styrofoam goes to packaging companies, other stuff goes to art studios and schools, etc. Gotta love the people … when the city lets us down, people get busy and find their own, good solutions.

  6. LJayne says:

    Would love this here. We can now do yogurt pots, fruit punnets, ready meal plastic trays etc but not the kind of hard plastic in toys/toilet seats etc.
    Fantastic to see we have the facility in the UK and that it is all traceable 🙂

  7. Jennifer says:

    What a dream! How inspiring. I have great hope it will be worldwide….one day. Not very soon, but one day.

  8. Jane says:

    Sadly some Councils will go backwards because they don’t and won’t communicate with their residents. The public aren’t stupid or confused – the Council is playing politics – they don’t inform them clearly constantly and correctly so the amount doesn’t increase and newcomers have no recycling equipment, then change the system and trumpet a great increase!

  9. Thank you so much for featuring this our video from Suffolk. I really appreciate it. Our county council is a great example of a local authority that is constantly finding new ways of raising awareness amongst residents and I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with them on this video. It came about following an informal chat one day and I have been enthusiastic about sharing the news about the hard plastics. It was a real privilege to visit the recycling plants. The opportunities for growth are amazing and I hope that these services can be rolled out into many other counties. Of course it all depends on contracts and economic markets. Councils need to work harder and smarter at improving services and working with their local communities to raise awareness, especially in this current culture of cuts and waste should never be – even if it is used as such – a political football. Not everything in our county is perfect, but I’m glad to see it’s going in the right direction and that we have some great facilities to hand. We are very lucky indeed. Thanks again Mrs G, and a happy recycle week to you. x

  10. Glenn says:

    The video does not clearly address the total situation. Is CO2 emmission from road transport and plant processing taken account of? In other words, does the amount of CO2 produced in the total recycling process negate the value of recycling the plastic?

  11. Alan says:

    Can these hard plastic recycling streams cope with plastic tubs with dry residue paint or residue tile adhesive as examples – in that in the second stage this contamination can be disposed off? I put them in the skips currently along with toilet seats, etc.

    • Mrs Green says:

      Great question, Alan. I don’t know the official answer to your question; so I’d call your local council for advice.

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