Black plastic no longer accepted for recycling at Guernsey bring banks

December 4th, 2012 by States of Guernsey Public Services Department

The newly illustrated plastic bring banks will accept more plastic items but not plastic film and bags and not black plastic of any kind (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

The States of Guernsey Public Services Department aims to increase the amount of plastic recycled locally by simplifying the system for islanders.

All plastic packaging will now be accepted at the bring banks, with the exception of any black items and thin films, such as the seals on food containers, polythene and carrier bags.

Although the amount collected has nearly doubled in five years, many islanders reported finding the previous system confusing.

This relied on symbols to identify the type of plastic an item was made from, and only those marked with a 1, 2, 5 or 6 were supposed to go in the bring banks.

Deputy Scott Ogier, Public Services Deputy Minister, said simplifying this should increase the amount collected and reduce contamination.

“Our goal is to capture as much recyclable plastic as possible, but we also have to ensure there is a sustainable market for any material we collect.”

“If it’s too contaminated with items that reprocessors don’t want, or can’t use, then at best it will cost us more. The worst case scenario is none of it will be recycled,” he said.

“So we still have to stipulate a few materials that should be kept out the bring banks.”

Black plastic trays, even if they are marked with a recycling triangle, or PET, or the number '1' can NO LONGER be taken to the bring banks for recycling (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

“They are black plastic, items made from thin plastic film, and what we commonly know as polystyrene. These easy to identify and the message for islanders is very simple: unless it is one of these items, we want whatever household plastic packaging you have.”

Among the problems with the old system were symbols frequently being too small to read or missed off completely. Some islanders therefore put recyclable items in the bin if they were unsure of the type, while others put all plastic in the bring banks, leading to more contamination.

Public Services worked with Eco Plastics, which has Europe’s largest reprocessing plant, to simplify the system, which will also apply when kerbside collections are introduced next year.

A trial was carried out to measure the different types of plastic that would be collected if the numbering system no longer applied.

This found most household packaging was recyclable, with a few easily identifiable exceptions.

(click image to expand - image courtesy of the States of Guernsey Public Services Department)

Black plastic is not recyclable – even if marked with a symbol – because infrared detectors reprocessors use to identify different materials cannot recognise it.

Coloured or clear items that pass the sensors underneath black packaging are also rejected, and despite being recyclable will end up in either landfill or used for energy from waste.

Processors also do not like thin plastic film, such as the transparent material used to seal ready meals. This is often degradable, and therefore unsuitable for turning into new plastic products. It can also get tangled in automated sorting system.

Black packaging, which is typically produced from already recycled material, makes up around 10% of the total currently collected.

It is commonly used in food packaging, and preferred by retailers because it enhances the appearance of the contents.

The sign on the new plastic bring banks that explains what can and cannot be put into the plastic bring bank (click image to expand)

Black plastic is not recyclable – even if marked with a symbol – because infrared detectors reprocessors use to identify different materials cannot recognise it.

Coloured or clear items that pass the sensors underneath black packaging are also rejected, and despite being recyclable will end up in either landfill or used for energy from waste.

Processors also do not like thin plastic film, such as the transparent material used to seal ready meals. This is often degradable, and therefore unsuitable for turning into new plastic products. It can also get tangled in automated sorting system.

Black packaging, which is typically produced from already recycled material, makes up around 10% of the total currently collected.

It is commonly used in food packaging, and preferred by retailers because it enhances the appearance of the contents.

Tina Norman-Ross, Public Services recycling officer, said retailers were working with the reprocessing industry to address this material.

‘Trials have been carried out with different colourants that infra-red sensors can identify, and the results are promising. However these products are not yet commercially available.’

“We hope in the future to be able to include black plastic, but for the time being we are asking islanders to keep it out,” she said.

“We also ask them to use the Longue Hougue facility for other rigid plastic items, and for expanded polystyrene, which are the other main sources of contamination.”

More than 140 tonnes of plastic were collected through the bring banks in the first six months of 2012, compared to 160 tonnes for the whole of 2009. This does not include items that are not packaging, such as garden furniture or toys.

These should not be put in bring banks but can be taken to the Longue Hougue recycling facility.

The plastic bring banks are brightly illustrated with images of what they accept and tell you what they cannot accept for recycling (click image to expand - image courtesy of the Public Services Department)

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