Black plastic has nowhere to go in Guernsey but the Mont Cuet landfill

January 27th, 2013 by Richard Lord

Accumulated over 56 days by a family of four, 85 pieces of black plastic packaging that can no longer be deposited at Guernsey's bring banks for recycling (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

At the end of November 2012 the States of Guernsey Public Services Department changed the labelling of the bring banks accepting plastic, and specified that black plastic would no longer be accepted but all other clean, food container plastic (not Styrofoam food trays, film or plastic bags) would be accepted at Guernsey’s bring banks.

Sign on a plastic bring bank showing what can and cannot be put into it (click image to expand)

The former requirement of searching for triangles and numbers embossed on plastic packaging to determine if the plastic can be deposited at Guernsey’s bring banks is no longer necessary.

The Guernsey public was told that this change in plastic recycling was required because the optical sorting equipment used by many Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in the UK couldn’t detect and sort the black plastic.

However in September 2011, the Waste Resources Action Programme published a paper, which stated that if plastic packaging manufacturers used non-carbon pigments it is possible to produce black plastic packaging that can be identified by optical sorting equipment.

However, Deputy Scott Ogier, Deputy Minister for the Public Services Department, said on BBC Guernsey radio on 27 January 2013 that although black plastic may be marked as plastic 1 or 2, and is technically recyclable, there is no market demand for recycled black plastic at the moment.

“What we have to do to reduce contamination of the plastic we send to the UK for reprocessing is to keep black plastic out,” he said.

“You can recycle nearly all of your household plastic packaging such as bottles, tubs, yoghurt pots etc. It can all be taken to the bring bank. What you have to keep out is black plastic and polythene, plastic film from food containers, and plastic bags,” Deputy Scott Ogier said.

“Unfortunately, at the moment, the black plastic will just have to go to landfill,” he said.

“We know that the reprocessors in the UK are working with the plastic packaging manufacturers in order to find a use for the black plastic and we hope that in the future this situation will change.”

Guernsey is not alone in not recycling black plastic. For example, Bath & North East Somerset council have never accepted black plastic in their recycling scheme. Any black plastic that has been collected has been disposed of as a contaminant further down the line, and sent to landfill.

Some of the black plastic packaging that Guernsey households buy (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

In recent years there appears to have been an upsurge in the use of PET black plastic by food packaging firms. In 56 days my family of four accumulated 85 pieces of black plastic packaging, which can no longer be brought to Guernsey’s bring banks.

This quantity of plastic is greater than the quantity of plastic food packaging that my family accumulates that can now be recycled under the new guidance at Guernsey’s bring banks.

The only way to reduce the disposal of black plastic in the household waste stream is to shop diligently and avoid its purchase.

Sustainable Guernsey knows of Guernsey residents collecting black plastic food packaging, because they despise the idea of having to dispose of it in their household waste.

Even though Guernsey’s Public Services Department has stated that it cannot collect black plastic for recycling, in an article in The Guernsey Press published on 25 January, PSD Recycling Officer, Tina Norman-Ross, offers some hope to passionate recyclers, when she was quoted as saying “we hope in the future to be able to include black plastic.”

Sustainable Guernsey would like to hear from anyone who might have a genuine and useful use for black plastic (other than burning) so that it can be kept out of the Mont Cuet landfill, which is filling up fast.

Black plastic packaging can no longer be brought to Guernsey bring banks for recycling (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

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