Action on plastics

Many of you will have seen the BBC’s programme War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita and we’d like to reassure you about what happens to your recycling in Somerset. In a detailed SWP Plastics Q&A, we’ll be answering some commonly asked questions, like “where does my recycling end up?” and “how can I do more?”. We’ll be explaining that you can have absolute confidence in the way we handle your recycling, because we’re leading the way in being open and transparent. We’ll explain how the way we recycle is just as important as why we should; and tell you about our exciting plans to keep improving what we do.

Get the key questions answered here: SWP Plastics Q&A

Meanwhile, the tide is turning on disposable plastics as people realise the everyday small steps they can take to reduce reliance on plastics, not only helping the environment but your pockets as well. It all boils down to choices – shop around, spend a little more to avoid packaging, select the less packaged item or perhaps simply peel and chop the veggies yourself.

Sign up – My Pledge Against Preventable Plastic to make a difference now. 


As part of Somerset’s action on plastic, all recycle sites now accept rigid plastic food and other household pots, tubs and trays (PTT) in the skips also used for plastic bottles.

Suitable for recycling:
• Plastic pots for yoghurt, soup, face cream, hair gel.
• Plastic tubs for margarine, ice cream, laundry tabs.
• Plastic trays (including black plastic) for meat, ready meals, and plastic punnets for fruit, mushrooms.

Before recycling items:
• Remove and recycle where possible or dispose of all foil, film covers, absorbent pads and card.
• Give plastic food packaging a quick rinse using left-over washing up water – taking special care with trays that have contained raw poultry. Then wash your hands. Leftover food residue can be unhygienic and may contaminate the recycling stream.
• Please nest, squash or flatten items (where appropriate) to save space in the recycling skip and do not include items from the not accepted list.

Ensure you exclude:
• Thin plastic, such as cling film, bubble wrap, carrier bags, film covers, bread bags, multipack wraps.
• Expanded polystyrene i.e. packaging inserts.
• Plastic paint pots and black plastic plant pots and seed trays.
• Other plastics, such as toys, garden furniture, car parts, or CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes and cases.

• Avoid disposable drinking straws and plastic-lined paper cups.
• Check your toiletries and cosmetics for micro-beads and switch to brands using natural alternatives.
• Choose your “take away” from a supplier using foil rather than plastic containers.
• Buy loose fruit and vegetables.
• Take your own re-useable containers and bags when shopping.
• Grow your own seasonal fruit and vegetables.
• Purchase loose-leaf tea rather than plastic sealed teabags.
• Start getting a glass bottle home delivery service.
• Reuse glass jars for food storage and reuse plastic packaging, such as margarine tubs as storage containers, fruit punnets as seed trays, mini greenhouses etc.
• Invest in electrical razors/toothbrushes etc. and avoid disposable versions.
• When purchasing products look for items packaged in materials you can recycle at the kerbside. If you need chopped tomatoes, buy them in a tin rather than a plastic lined cartons. Choose the coffee sold in a jar rather than a plastic pot. Select the washing powder in a cardboard box rather than the plastic pouch.
• Organise a community litter pick, contact your district council for advice and to ask about borrowing equipment. For advice on litter picking or to run your own event visit Keep Britain Tidy.
• Lobby your local retailers to send plastic free products such as milk in glass bottles, paper based straws and compostable pet waste bags.
• Encourage hirers of village and community halls to run waste free events by providing reusable catering equipment.
• Encourage local shops, pubs and cafes to avoid using disposable cutlery and to supply condiments in bottles and jars not sachets.

One way to cut down on plastic bottle waste is to carry a refillable bottle with you when you are out and about.  But refilling the bottle (for free) can be an issue and many people are embarrassed to ask for refills.

Currently, licensed premises including bars, theatres and restaurants are legally required to provide free drinking water on request in England, Scotland and Wales, although they can charge for the use of a glass.  The Refill scheme aims to provide more freely available locations from cafes, shops and community facilities to enable everyone to fill up water bottles for free.

Somerset Waste Partnership is working with Refill to increase the number of locations which offer free drinking  water top ups for refillable bottles and cups across Somerset.

Visit Refill to download their app showing the current locations signed up for the scheme and look out for stickers in windows indicating organisations which have signed up for the scheme.


People are often surprised that plastic presents challenges for recycling, but it does.

Low quality plastic, like yoghurt pots, margarine tubs and meat trays, have had far more limited recycling options than the kind of high quality plastic used for plastic bottles, so, as it can’t be turned into much, re-processors don’t want it. It’s very bulky stuff, so takes a lot of vehicle capacity to carry and a lot of space to store. It’s difficult to sort into different types (particularly black plastic). On top of that, food packaging is often “contaminated” with food residue or film, which might cause a problem as it goes through the recycling system.

Because of these problems, our collection service was designed to focus on collecting plastic bottles only (clean, easy to identify and sort, and good quality).

Like many other people in Somerset we were concerned that this potentially useful resource is going to waste and wanted to do far more.  In recent years, technology to identify and separate plastic by type has made great leaps forward and now the potential market for mixed plastics is starting to open up, so we have made the commitment to find a way to collect more.

Recycle More is the result of that commitment.  Not only is Recycle More adding a wider range of plastics to your collections but it also recycles cartons (another difficult product to recycle due to the mix of materials used to make each cartons), small electricals and household batteries.  See Recycle More for more information.

We support and appreciate your desire to do more.  As Somerset’s annual report, Beyond the kerb – recycling to resources, shows, recycling works and you can be sure every item we collect for recycling gets recycled.  Recycle More is bringing more plastic to kerbside collections and, when that happens, you can be sure that will get recycled, too.


Rinse plastic bottles, squash them and put the tops back on before recycling via your kerbside box or any recycle site.

This specialist plastics company will accept plastic bottle tops (no payment involved). Send them to:

Mytum & Selby (Hull) Ltd
Morley Street
Hull HU8 8DN

Charity fundraisers able to collect or deliver large quantities of milk bottle tops – washed clean and free of any paper, rubber or foil inserts or labels – can contact recycling firm GHS. Details:

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)