(Please note this information may change in the future)
Constantly I am asked by people about recycling and what, where and how we recycle and why we cannot recycle more.
To begin with this is amazing when you think how far we have come in such a short period of time. The green sections of society have been there a long while but the ordinary population would not have had the willingness nor the inclination to recycle ten years ago or to talk about it in such wide and glowing terms. We cannot give you enough recycling it seems.
Yet we have also to have an end user for everything we collect for recycling or else it is nothing more than so much rubbish that we have to get rid of. Plastics are the most difficult items to deal with. Plastic is all plastic, but that generalisation is dangerous as there are in effect many, many sub-groups and types of plastic to deal with and while all are recyclable some are only able to be recycled by specialist firms or be used in other ways such as energy from waste. Currently West Lindsey takes plastic which is numbered as 1 or 2. This we can get recycled. Usually numbers 3 and 4 are plastics which have either been recycled previously or are blow moulded and so their molecules are stretched and pulled in all directions. If you recycle them by conventional means all you end up with is a sticky mess. To prove the point were you to get a kettle of boiling water, and I don’t really think you ought to do it for safety sake, and pour the water on a Ski Yoghurt pot it would disintegrate into a sticky disc of plastic from which the pot was blow or vacuum moulded.
Plastics with a number 5 are often specialist plastics with polymers in them and more difficult to recycle. Those plastics with a recycling symbol and no number on should, unfortunately be put into the black bin.
I am also asked why it is that WLDC stopped taking tin foil and aerosols which we had on the list at first but which now are not acceptable, though if they are put into the blue bin will be removed at the recycling facility. The reason behind these was down to European and World legislation on recycling. The tin foil is, even if it is washed, invariably contaminated with food residue. This is not removed in the smelting process and will remain to contaminate what ever the recycled tin or aluminium is used for second time around. You don’t want to fly to Barcelona in an aircraft with aluminium in it held together by last week’s steak and kidney pie. Aluminium and tin cans are easier to deal with as they are usually for liquids and can be washed out completely clean. Aerosols are a real difficult problem. Thankfully most of the CFC propelled cans are now a thing of the past and many aerosols are powered instead by butane. You see on the can to avoid naked flame or that the can is flammable and should not be punctured or heated even when empty.
Aerosols going through the recycling process can, and do, explode. As the first stage of most recycling including WLDC’s is picking off a conveyor by human means we don’t like to take their arms off with exploding aerosols, it means a lot of paperwork if nothing else. So that is why we cannot take the tinfoil and aerosols any more. Hopefully if aerosols are, in the future, powered by inert gases or propellants then we can reconsider and reclaim the valuable metals of the cans.
People have also lately been interested to know what happens to their recycling and if it gets sent to China or India, in effect passing out problem on to someone else. It doesn’t. WLDC did an audit trail of recycling and it is all recycled and used in the British Isles.
We work with a firm recycling in the U.K. What do they do with it, well the metals get separated, ferrous metal with an over-band magnet and aluminium cans are electrically charged and taken off by a second magnet.
This material is usually put through again.
Plastic is put through a trammel and goes off to be turned into plastic bottles or nylon thread which makes fleece jackets and so on. So the milk carton you had last week you might be wearing next week. Glass is separated and crushed, though bottle necks and bottoms where glass is thickest were a problem. This is then not turned into glass again but back into aggregate which is used in the construction industry meaning that sand does not have to be quarried in the countryside leaving scars in the landscape. Very few companies can turn glass back to glass though there is a possibility that the green glass from WLDC may go to Portugal in the near future to be used in making wine bottles.
Brown cardboard is recycled into more cardboard boxes. That is what happens to everything from your blue bin. The newspapers put out separately go to the same place and are sorted from their carrier bags. The bags are sent to be recycled. The paper is further sorted and baled and goes to make more paper either toilet or kitchen rolls or newsprint.