Today, plastics are getting a rough deal in relation to their environmental impact. The UK Government are currently looking into a series of proposals in relation to a 25-year plan to improve our environmental record. Almost all types of plastic can be recycled, however, this depends on many factors to include negligence, ignorance, technical, financial and logistical issues. Current figures from the British Plastics Federation claim that “Plastics arising in the UK are at 3.7 million tonnes of which 29% is recycled and 59% is recovered.”
To be clear, there are two main types of plastic products which can be classed as 1) Single Use and 2) Multi Use
Single Use Plastics:
An example of Single Use Plastics would be items such as carrier bags, plastic can holders and plastic bottles, items which can be loosely related to packaging, all of which are polluting our planet and oceans. These items can be harmful to our wildlife and if they do not end up in the oceans, they could end up in Landfill.
Most UK Councils now offer household recycling and separating for many of these kind of items, you may now simply be used to putting your plastic bottles into one box, and your cans and cardboard into another, and by doing this, you are helping to keep these items out of landfill and away from the oceans.
The single use plastics industry is also focusing on the use of Biodegradable and Degradable materials - this appears to have a positive impact when first thought about, but this really has only arisen due to the behaviour of people rather than the single use plastics industry being a negative thing. There are potential manufacturing risks if biodegradable or degradable plastics make it back into the plastics chain through recycling and are used in products designed for long term usage.
Since the introduction of the 5 pence charge from major outlets for the carrier bag, statistics prove that the use of single use carried bags has reduced by 85% in the UK, which is an amazing result!
Multi Use Plastics:
This is what we do – this is plastics for everyday items such as Television Remote Controls, Phones, Electrical equipment, heating, ventilation and air conditioning markets to name a few. These products are designed to be either re-used or re-cycled. They could be loosely related to Construction, Retail and Manufacturing. The benefits of recycling these kinds of items are more than beneficial for both the plastics industry and the environment.
Plastics are derived from organic products. The materials used in the production of plastics are natural products such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and, of course, crude oil. Crude oil is a complex mixture of thousands of compounds. To become useful, it must be processed – so recycling plastics avoids the consumption of the Earth’s natural assets. This then provides a sustainable source for raw materials and reduces the environmental impact of plastic products. Recycling also reduces the high costs incurred when producing virgin material.
The government has schemes in place for End of Life Vehicles where the ‘Reuse and Recycle’ rate is 85%, and the ‘Reuse and Recover’ rate is set at 95% - so this is superb news as the vehicle plastics can be re-used in the motor industry or many other areas where recycled plastics are now being commonly used.
In conclusion: You may not be aware, but one of the most serious plastic offenders is the disposable coffee cup! Yes, the majority of this is cardboard which should be easily recyclable, however, as the inner of the cup is lined with a plastic shield, then this makes the coffee cup one of the most difficult items to recycle. There are only 3 plants with the technology to recycle these in the UK, so most unfortunately, end up being separated from other recyclables and ending up in landfill. The UK government are now looking into how to overcome this problem, so watch this space!