If there is one material that has seen a huge growth in collection volumes it’s plastics. As you can imagine, it weighs very little but takes up a large amount of space. We have had to double plastics wheelie bin capacity in many communal areas and we are running at full capacity on our trucks.
If there’s one material that will blow about on a windy day it’s plastics. We’ve tried putting nets over the collection boxes, but other materials tend to get snagged up in them causing considerable delays. On average we collect more than 160 tonnes of plastic every month in Newport.
Much of the growth is down to the increased popularity of plastic bottles for everything from pop to cider and microwave meal containers. Twenty years ago, for example, the UK consumed 800 million litres of bottled water per year, by 2014 it was 2,600 million litres per year.
In environmental terms, it’s more efficient to recycle plastic bottles than to send them to an incinerator to recover energy from them. In greenhouse gas terms, recycling plastic is highly effective. Every tonne of plastic bottles recycled saves around 1.5 tonnes of CO2 compared to making the same bottles from new plastic.
Newport’s plastic bottles and containers are sent to Jayplas Ltd in Leicestershire. Here they are sliced into smaller pieces and go through a very thorough washing process. Different plastics are then separated either by colour or weight before being ground down into small pellets, flakes or chips. These are then sent to be made into new products, anything from car parts and park benches to football kits.
The only plastics we can’t collect are plastic carrier bags, plastic film and hard plastic like toys and garden seats (these can be taken to the civic amenity site). The problem with plastic carrier bags is that they clog up the machines that break the plastic into small pieces. We can, however, take the clear plastic sacks we provide so long as they only contain plastics. This is because we break the sacks open when we return to the depot and keep them totally separate from the plastic bottles.
We understand this can be frustrating but the factories we send all our materials to (including metal, paper, food waste etc.) all have problems with plastic carrier bags clogging up their systems.