Why only plastic bottles
Somerset Waste Partnership collections only accept plastic bottles for recycling, but not film or food pots, tubs or trays. Only put plastic bottles out for kerbside collections; remove and discard tops, flip caps or spray triggers, and rinse.
Why not other types of plastics
When the current collection contract for Somerset districts was awarded in 2007, only plastic bottles were being recycled and not other types of plastic, so this was not a realistic option then in the UK.
The situation has been changing since this time, with sorting and reprocessing capacity to recycle other types of plastics slowly starting to develop in the UK. As a result, some areas have been able to start recycling more plastics, especially food pots, tubs and trays; although most of the additional plastics collected have been exported for recycling – 61% was exported in 2014, mostly to China*.
Most local authorities that now accept more plastics on their collections awarded their contracts later than Somerset Waste Partnership and so had the opportunity to set up their systems – including the design of vehicles and range of collection containers – for the wider range of plastics from the start.
What is being done
Somerset Waste Partnership has continued to review the opportunities for collecting other plastics and, in 2014, ran a series of trials, where plastic pots, tubs and trays were among the materials added to the list of items already recycled on selected collection rounds in Taunton Deane for more than 5,000 households, large and small.
Typical of the items taken were plastic pots for yoghurt or make-up, tubs for margarine or ice cream, and fruit trays; not accepted were any plastic film, items made of polystyrene, or plastic plant pots.
For the trials, special arrangements were made to recycle the mixed plastics, as facilities are not currently available to handle mixed plastics at our collection depots.
The trials provided valuable information and are part of a programme of work to consider future collection arrangements for introduction, if practical, sustainable and cost-effective, when the current fleet of recycling vehicles need replacing.
In the meantime, temporary trial arrangements have been established to allow plastic pots, tubs and trays to be accepted at Taunton (Priorswood) and Wellington (Poole) recycling centres. As in the kerbside trials, the items accepted include plastic pots for yoghurt or make-up, tubs for margarine or ice cream, and fruit trays; not accepted are any plastic film, items made of polystyrene, or plastic plant pots.
These facilities at the recycling sites were set up primarily to allow those who had been recycling these plastics on the Taunton Deane trial rounds to continue to do so, and the assess the quantity and quality of materials deposited. Consideration will be given to extending these or improved arrangements to other sites if it can be done efficiently and cost-effectively.
If additional materials are added to kerbside collections, this will be well publicised. For the present, please put out only plastic bottles as other plastic items contaminate the waste stream, lowering the quality and value of what, once collected, becomes a raw material used for reprocessing into new packaging and products.
Why no bottle tops
Tops are often a different type of plastic to the bottle. As well as contaminating the “clean stream” of what is now a raw material for reprocessing, bottle tops can cause problems when baling plastic bottles, as some bottles are so strong that with tops on they cannot easily be flattened, even in an industrial baler. The pressure from baled bottles with tops on can cause bales to become misshapen or to burst open, so that they have to be baled again, adding to costs and creating handling difficulties.
Even when different containers are labelled as made from the same type of plastic, the grade may be different and the two cannot be recycled together or easily sorted. This situation is further complicated because even what might appear to be the same packaging can be made from different materials.
Unfortunately, some recycling symbols on plastics do not provide a guide to whether they can be recycled, just to the type of plastic. These symbols are a frequent cause of confusion for consumers.
There are around 50 types of plastics, from perspex to nylon, with six most widely used in packaging, including PET – polyethylene terephthalate; HDPE – high density polyethylene; LDPE – low density polyethylene; PVC – polyvinyl chloride; PP – polypropylene; and PS – polystyrene.
• SOURCE: WRAP 2016 – Plastics market situation report (Spring 2016) (7.80MB)
Charity collections of plastic bottle tops – Please see our charities page.