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Plastic bottle washed up on a beach

How does plastic actually harm the environment?

You see it on TV, you read it online, you can’t escape hearing about how bad plastic is for the environment. Over the years people have started to cut back on plastic consumption, and although many people are aware that plastic is bad for the environment, many people don’t actually know why.

What are the types of plastic?

They’re lots of different types of plastics. You may have noticed the little triangles on your plastic packages, a lot of people think they mean the item can be recycled but actually they represent the type of plastic that has been used. Here our chart explaining each triangle:

Is all plastic recyclable?

Nearly all types of plastics can be recycled but this depends on a lot of factors such as economic and logistics. The most recycled plastics are the two used to make items such as milk bottles, PET and HDPE. However, there is a limit to how many times plastic can be recycled, you can read more here.

Why is plastic so bad?

Plastic debris can be found everywhere from the Arctic to Antarctica. It kills millions of animals each year, from fish to birds and many others, whether it’s from entanglement, blocked digestive tracts or pierced organs. They’re many reasons why plastic is bad for animals, but it isn’t just them who are affected by plastic. It clogs street drains in cities, litters parks and has been found piling up on Mount Everest.

Plastic is also one of the main products of fracking which is bad for the planet for many reasons, it pollutes water, soil and air with toxins.

How plastic pollution can be reduced

They’re many ways we can reduce plastic pollution, such as buying reusable cups/bottles, purchasing metal straws to carry around with you, shopping at zero waste stores, here are our two favourites in Nottingham Shop Zero and The Good Weigh. Supermarkets like Iceland have an aim to be plastic-free by 2023 and Lidl has made lots of changes to reach their goals to reduce plastic.

And finally, recycle the plastic you have, get in touch with us for any advice or questions you might have. We can provide services tailored to you.

 

   

Image of litter in bin

School Waste: Where does it all go?

It’s estimated that on average 4.2 million tonnes of good food produced by schools is wasted each year. That isn’t including any other types of waste, which we’re going to discuss in this blog. If you’d like to find out more about where food waste goes head over to our blog Food Waste: What happens when it’s collected. Schools produce such a wide variety of waste types, and we’re going to look into all of them.

Paper and Card

Paper and card can both be recycled (as long as it doesn’t have any sort of glitter, foil etc on that you would usually find with Christmas or Birthday cards, so make sure you try to pull any off before recycling). When they have been collected, they’re taken to a recycling plant where they get separated by type and grade. It then gets washed with soapy water to remove ink, plastic film, staples and glue. This then is put into a large holder and mixed with water to create “slurry” and by adding different materials, different paper products can be created from newspaper to cardboard. The slurry then gets spread into large thin sheets using large rollers. Once the paper is dry it is ready to be cut and sent back to shops. However, the paper is made up of long fibres meaning, each time it is recycled, those fibres are shortened so, therefore, paper cannot be recycled indefinitely.

Plastic Waste

Some plastics can also be recycled, once collected it gets taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and plastics are sorted into polymer types, because not all plastic items are made from the same form of plastic, some are also mixed. Once the materials have been separated they get transported to reprocessing facilities to be recycled by plastic-type. The plastic will either be shredded into flakes or melt-processed to form pellets, which can then be moulded into new products such as water bottles.

Unfortunately, a lot of UK plastic recycling is exported abroad due to the labour cost and infrastructure in the UK waste industry, and while some of it is still recycled into new products it’s hard to track exactly what happens to it once it has left our borders.

Garden Waste

Garden waste gets taken to a composting site where it then gets turned into a nutritious soil conditioner. Once it arrives at the composting site any material that isn’t compostable gets removed, usually by hand, and the remaining waste is shredded, and then left to decompose. The last part of the recycling process is to screen the compost to remove any remaining contaminants and grade the material for various end uses. This process can take between 8 and 16 weeks.

Another process that is available is in-vessel composting, this is the same however is under pressure and microbes are added to the material to speed the process up.

General Waste

General waste is waste which can’t be recycled such as non-recyclable plastics, polythene, some packaging, etc. 10 years ago, This waste would have been disposed of in landfill sites but with the advances in technology and space in the landfills decreasing rapidly, it means that there are different ways that we can deal with general waste, such as recovering energy from waste. Non-recyclable products are taken to an incinerator which burns the waste and collects the gasses, the gasses produced are then treated and converted into Gas and Electric that powers your home/business.

Metals

Waste metal is segregated down into types and is sent to a furnace to get melted down into ingots, a mass of metal shaped suitably for further processing, and can be sent to manufacturers and production companies. These ingots can be shaped and moulded into a variety of products, one of the most common uses for recycled metals is packaging such as cans or even computer components.

Glass

Once glass waste has been collected and taken to be reprocessed it gets crushed, and contaminants are removed at this stage. The glass then gets melted in a furnace and moulded or blown into new bottles or jars. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be endlessly reprocessed with no loss of quality.

We can provide services for any of these waste types and will work with you to find the best sustainable solution for you.