Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Where does our plastic & cardboard go?

Aluminium cans
This afternoon the Environment committee had the opportunity of a site visit to the plant at Hartlepool which deals with the cardboard and plastic recycling we put out in our white bags.  It was a noisy but fascinating visit.  Seeing the cardboard & plastic, mixed with paper and cans from other authorities that don't do kerbside sorting, being shaken and blown about to separate out the various kinds of material confirms yet again the ingenuity of mankind.  An infra-red plastic detector which then blows the plastic bottle up into one conveyor while letting the heavier cartons go down into another looked a bit like something James Bond might have had a use for.

The noise is deafening in parts of the plant and ear defenders are needed, but it's all in a good cause.  The final stage is a manual separation of things that have ended up in the wrong place (machines can't do everything) and that section of the plant seemed to be staffed by mainly if not entirely Polish workers.  Safety notices were in Polish as well as English, showing at least a recognition of some responsibility for the staff.
The finished products are baled up and sent to recycling plants that need that resource or can further refine it - cardboard and paper to the paper mill, aluminium to the smelter, drink cartons to a plant which can separate the cardboard from the plastic from the foil in them, plastic bottles to a specialist plant that can separate the different kinds of plastic and so on.  Brown cardboard is separated from other kinds as it's stronger and can be reused to make cardboard whereas the lighter card goes to make such things as tissues.  Clear polythene is more valuable than coloured carrier bags and gets packaged separately.  So it goes on - each material being packaged up to be taken to the appropriate market place. 

So putting that cardboard and plastic in the white bag is worth it - the material is used again.  But please don't put in the light, crinkly plastic that doesn't recycle - do look for the recycling mark on the containers.  That way the material produced is of the highest quality and gets the best price, with a consequent impact on our council tax!


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could inform us. In terms of money only, does Stockton's recycling cost us money? If so how much (approx). As we used to burn most of our waste, we must have been exempt from landfill tax? Now we dont burn as much, there must be a fall in output from the incinerator, so do we loose money? I am sure that stockton residents would love to know.

Maureen Rigg said...

If you'd like to identify yourself as a resident instead of asking anonymously I'd be able to pass your request to those council officers who can answer it. Otherwise I'm afraid that it will remain unanswered.