Sunday, 31 January 2016

Plastics fantastic - but always work to reduce and recycle it!

It was back in November 2015 I first engaged with Asaf Afzal - the cabinet member for waste at Derby City Council in relation to the recycling of plastic film material at the Raynesway Household Waste Recycling Centre. After all the media coverage of the carrier bag tax - the 5 pence charge for carrier bags at larger stores it got me thinking if such material can be recycled - and it can as other councils already accept such material at the kerbside or at bring sites then why is Derby not doing so?
It is now widely noted that the recycling rate in Derby has collapsed - much of it due to the garden waste scheme becoming a charged for service but then the cities rate has actually been falling for years since a high in 2010/11. More on that can be read about here

This calls for an increase in the drive to recycle otherwise the council will fail to meet its 55% target by 2020 - a figure they already seem to be downgrading to 50% because they can see they wont make their enhanced target which it set with the County Council when coming together in a joint waste contract.
Now plastic film can be made from a number of plastic types but is commonly low density polyethylene commonly known as LDPE. This can be anything from a humble plastic carrier bag through to larger pieces of material such as what protects large white goods etc. It is important to recycle this material which replaces the use of new natural resources and also stops it from being landfilled or incinerated.
I therefore attended the Full Council meeting in Derby on November 25th 2015 to raise the issue of recycling such material in the city - which would boost the flagging recycling rate in Derby.
The question was as follows

 Question from Simon Bacon to Councillor Afzal 
The city council does not accept plastic film in the kerbside recycling scheme unlike some other councils in the UK. Plastic film needs to be recycled to keep it out of landfill or incineration.  
Can the public recycle plastic film types of plastic at the Raynesway HWRC site?

The response was as follows
No, the public cannot recycle plastic film types at Raynesway The material is of very low value, is usually in small pieces and contaminated with food waste. This type of material can also lead to maintenance problems at the materials recovery facility (where materials are sorted and processed); the film becomes entangled in the belts and rollers leading to breakdowns on the processing lines.

The problem with Cllr Afzals reply was he was looking at the issue from a kerbside collection aspect instead of a dedicated plastic film skip at the Rayneway site sent to a dedicated plastic film recycler.
I followed up my question with a supplementary question placing greater focus on a dedicated skip sent to a dedicated plastic film recycler and he said he would look into it and speak to me outside the meeting.
Giving it a few days I emailed Cllr Afzal in early December with views and information on the subject - including links to the recycling of such material at Suffolk HWRC sites. I got no response until late December when Cllr Afzal claimed he had not got my email. It was January 12th before he came back to me with a full response on the proposal.
He declined to put in place plastic film recycling at Raynesway and stated he had spoken to their contractors (the site is run under a contract with Resource Recovery Solutions Derbyshire Ltd who just happen to be building a controversial waste incineration plant in the city) and they had concluded that as it was low value and low in weight it was not viable to recycle the material and this issue was compounded by a suggested lack of space at the site.
It seems that Councillor Afzal and Derby City Council have lost sight of why we recycle! we do so to reuse materials to stop their disposal via landfill and incineration, to protect natural resources and to boost recycling figures - which are already in a dire position. 
In an interesting twist while reviewing the joint waste contract between the councils and Resource Recovery Solutions it was found that there was even a requirement to collect plastics separately INCLUDING plastic film at HWRC sites. Schedule 1 of the contract stated as follows.
Schedule 1 states
6.10.3 The Contractor shall provide capacity to segregate the following non exhaustive list of Contract Waste types for Re-Use, Recycling, Composting or Recovery: Other plastic including film and carrier bags
So in black and white in the very contract that is controlling so much of the cities waste these days we have a requirement for the waste contractor to segregate plastic film and carrier bags.
What has been Councillor Afzals response when the waste contract was raised in relation to plastic film?
At this moment in time it is not viable to recycle this material. 
Once again an example of the council failing to grasp the need to recycle and so failing to reap the rewards of an increased recycling rate - which Derby is crying out for!



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