Soft Plastics – To be, or not to be recycled?
Since we began our recycling workshops last November we have received a lot of feedback from the public. The most common concern expressed so far has been around non recyclable plastics.
Before January 2018, approx 80% of Ireland’s plastic waste was going to China for recycling. Due to the high volume of contamination, China announced it would no longer take imported plastic waste. Contamination occurs when items that do not belong in the recycling bin, such as nappies, food waste and other non-recyclables, are placed in that bin.
High quality LDPE soft plastic was taken to China to be recycled but since this is no longer the case all soft plastics must now go into the general waste bin. Many other types of soft plastics, of lower quality, cannot be recycled and were causing contamination problems.
Non recyclable soft plastics include packaging for fruit, veg and dry goods like rice, cling film, crisp and sweet packets and plastic bags.
Black rigid plastic has been another concern. Black plastic can be hard to identify when waste is being sorted because it blends with the colour of the conveyor belts. Despite black rigid plastic being recyclable, there is a risk it will not be recycled because of this flaw. However, we do recommend you place it into the recycling bin as hand sorting and floating technology can gather some of it.
Waste companies are working to improve technology so the black plastic can be recognised on the conveyor belt. They are also asking food manufacturers to avoid using black plastic trays.
Rigid plastic such as plastic trays, butter and yogurt cartons can be placed into your recycling bin but must be clean and dry to avoid contamination.
If the black plastic trays are missed, they will go to the cement kilns to be used as an alternative to fossil fuels, this is called waste to energy recovery.
Prior to the new recycling list which outlines what items can go into your recycling bin, many people have been putting items which are not actually recyclable into their recycling bin. Through running free recycling workshops we are on a mission to increase recycling and eliminate contamination so everything in the recycling bin can be repurposed.
If in doubt, put it in your general waste bin. For non recyclable plastics try to refuse, reduce and reuse.