Worrying figures on plastic recycling
Figures showing that more than two third of the plastics in food packaging can’t be recycled are very worrying, said Midlands green energy expert Ron.
He was commenting on research by the Local Government Association (LGA) that of 525,000 tonnes of the plastic waste used by households annually, only 169,145 tonnes can be reused.
“Food manufacturers should be setting an example and leading the way in recycling plastic,” said Ron, of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park.
He backed the LGA who are calling on the Government to look at banning low-grade plastics and for producers and manufacturers to contribute to the cost of collecting or disposing them.
The main culprits include:
- Fruit and vegetable punnets which are typically made from three polymers, including polystyrene, and are unrecyclable.
- Margarine tubs, which if they were made of the same material as plastic water bottles, would be recyclable.
- Microwave meals in black plastic trays, the only colour that cannot be scanned easily by sorting machines causing delays in the recycling process.
- Almost all the crisps sold in the UK are in non-recyclable plastic packaging which doesn’t rot. However, Britain’s biggest crisp manufacturer, Walkers, owned by PepsiCo, has promised to make its bags easier to recycle after a threatened boycott by environmental campaigners.
The LGA said councils were tackling the problems with 99 per cent of them collecting plastic bottles for recycling and 7 per cent collecting pots, tubs and trays, but the problem of challenging polymers meant further improvements difficult.
“Small and simple changes could make big improvement in recycling and help cut our carbon footprint by reducing landfill waste,” said Ron.
“Surely, for example, it would be simple to put microwave meals in a container that is any other colour than black.”
He said the ramifications were getting much more serious. As well as more plastic ending up in the world’s oceans more is being incinerated instead of being recycled.
However, there is some good news on recycling. The Government has said that the supply of plastic bags to customers at England’s seven largest supermarket chains has fallen by 86 per cent since a 5p charge was introduced in 2015.
“It just shows,” said Ron, “what can be achieved when the public are given an incentive.”
But he said as well as recycling plastic householders should also look at recycling energy.
He suggested having a solar assisted heat pump which works by absorbing heat from the atmosphere using an aluminium collector fitted to the wall or roof of the home. It recycles free heat from the sun to provide hot water for 365 days a year from 90p a week.
The water can also be used to heat the home as an alternative to gas or oil central heating.