September’s Dustbin Demon

Filed in Blog by on September 19, 2008 8 Comments
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plug protector made from non recyclable plastic
This month’s dustbin demon is another of those little items that many of us throw away without a second thought.

As Jen over at Clean Bin pointed out during our zero waste week, the majority of our waste was made up of food packaging.

But this month we’ve been discovering some other delights such as the leftovers from a declutter of your child’s bedroom, an old electrical socket that is made from Bakelite and bulk bags for builders sand.

You might remember that a few weeks ago I bought a yogurt maker. Yogurt pots, along with margarine pots are one of the most difficult plastics to recycle. Although I have now found a company that will now take them for recycling.

Ok, so the yogurt maker is plastic and I’ve now learned that ‘in the olden days’, as Little Miss Green likes to refer to my childhood, a stainless steel flask sitting near the Aga was all that was required. But it’s hard enough for me to get my head around yogurt making at the best of times, so I needed all the mod cons I could get; hence the yogurt maker.

However, the plug was a legend unto itself, because each prong was covered in a sheath of plastic.

Since when has an electrical plug needed to wear a plastic bonnet? I know we’re getting a lot of flooding at the moment, but surely wellies for a plug were over and beyond the call of duty.

I asked Lakeland that very question. I mean, plugs are made from metal; they are robust, designed to last, to travel half way across the world and arrive in perfect condition. They’ve been doing it for decades. So why now, do they have their own fashionable plastic outerwear?

My question was as follows:

Dear Lakeland,

I wanted to ask about the piece of plastic that was over the prongs of the plug when I bought the product.
Can you tell me what purpose it serves and
what I can do with it please? Can it be recycled?

Many thanks
Mrs Green

My first response was this:

Dear Mrs Green

Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with us.

I have had a look into this for you and the plastic on the plug is there to protect the plug while packaged. This can be recycled with your other plastics.

Kind regards

Lorna Kent
Customer Services

“With my other plastics” WTF does that mean?
Hmmm, well experience tells me that you have to make a bit of a nuisance of yourself before you get any real answers to your queries, so I tried again with this:

Hi Lorna,

Thank you for that – can you tell me, specifically, how the plastic protects the plug and what sort of plastic it is please?
Around here, we can only recycle plastic milk bottles; is it ok to put it in with this?

Thank you!
Mrs Green

Lorna, evidantally passed on this obnoxious woman who was asking too many questions on to Mike at the Product Query department

Dear Mrs Green,
Thank you for your email regarding the plastic plug protector. The plug needs protecting for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the edges of the prongs are quite sharp and if the plug pierces the packaging during the delivery process, may cause injury to the courier or packer or the customer.
Secondly, the prongs are an integral part of the plug. If they are bent in any way they will not fit the plug socket correctly and may therefore cause an electrical problem.
Also, modern plugs are enclosed, so the complete item would have to be replaced if the plug was damaged.
The plastic used in the plug protector is OK to recycle along with plastic bottles.
Hope this is enough info for you.
With best wishes.

Now, not being one to take things at face value, I wanted to know exactly what my little plastic friend was made from. I’ve heard too many times ‘it’s ok to recycle along with………’ but without any exact information to refer to.

So I wrote back to my friend Mike to ask him what sort of plastic it was with this:

Thank you Mike for that information.
I’m still not hearing what sort of plastic this plug protector is made from.

Other than that I have all the information I need – thank you!
Mrs Green

19 days later I received this:

Thank you for your email regarding the type of plastic used on plug covers. It is BPA 5 (Polypropylene) and is safe to recycle.
Hope this is sufficient info.

Erm, no actually, Code number 5 is NOT safe to recycle with plastic bottles; it will containate the load. Plastic bottles are codes number 1 & 2.

So, a month after my initial query I learn that plugs have suddenly become sharp, packers and gadgets need protecting from the back-stabbing little blighters and that number 5 can be put in with plastic bottles. Not.

Oh well, that will teach me to buy a new gadget.

I wonder how many of these get put into the landfill every year. I understand the need for protecting things in transit so that there is minimal damage, but I would love to see some figures on how many plugs these plastic protectors have actually saved.
Can anyone enlighten me?

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 (8)

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  1. Hi Mrs Green,

    The plug company’s recycling knowledge is less than impressive. Return to Sender seems to be one answer with a note asking how successful they were at recycling or reusing them.

    Covering the prongs is a safety feature when sent alone. Usually plugs come in small boxes inside larger equipment boxes with inner packaging. Local B&Q and the like sell these loose.

  2. just Gai says:

    Well done for persisting with your query. It’s about time producers/suppliers are forced to accept responsibility for the goods they supply. I find it quite disgraceful that all products and their packaging do not carry accurate and intelligible information on their composition and disposal. If it can be done for nutritional data then it can surely be done for recycling instructions.

  3. Mrs Green says:

    Hi John, I too was not impressed with the lack of information I was given. Imagine if I had taken the first response as gospel and put these in with the plastic bottles. Return to sender would be a good option in this instance.

    Thank you Gai – I’m with you on this one and I want to see clear labelling about recycling, just as I can about the fat and calories content (in fact I’m MORE interested in the former than the latter LOL!) The Co-Op are far and away the best at this which is another reason we support them.

  4. that’s not good.

    So, if it needs protecting, why not use card? They can mould card pulp into odd shapes for other packaging so I’m sure a plug protector is perfectly possible.

  5. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Sarah; I think card would work too. but you know, I don’t think they DO need protecting. Things with plugs on weren’t protected when I were a lass and all that…………

  6. Diane says:

    This is hilarious! Umm, since the plastic doesn’t encase the entire plug, just the prongs, then obviously the prongs can still be bent, Mike. And I would love to see the statistics on just how many innocent carriers were grieviously wounded in the course of carrying out their duties by a dangerous prong. The person who thought this one up had WAY too much time on their hands.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Diane,
    It is hilarious indeed. It still beats me LOL!

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