Why Can’t We Recycle All Our Plastic?

My local council in Flintshire, North Wales has a pretty comprehensive kerbside collection scheme for domestic waste. We have bags and bins for cans, paper & cardboard, glass, plastic bottles, food waste, garden waste and finally non-recyclables. As an environmentally-conscious household, we take great care to minimise the amount of stuff that goes into the non-recyclables bin, but we are constantly being defeated by the packaging that we bring home every time we shop for food in our local supermarket.

A typical example is when we buy meat – it often sits on a plastic tray, inside a clear film wrap, and if it is a chicken or a joint of meat, it is trussed up with elasticated bands. I have investigated the materials that make up the packaging, and they are all made of materials that could be recycled, but it is apparently uneconomical for it to be collected for re-processing.

Meat, Butcher, Store, Shop, Packaged

Fruit is also often presented on a tray, and wrapped in plastic. Sometimes the tray is made of recyclable organic material, and can either be composted or included in the paper/cardboard recycling bag, but not the plastic wrap. You can’t even take this material to the local recycling centre – they can’t do anything with it either, it all has to go into landfill.

waste packaging

Domestic plastics consumption

Apparently, in Britain, we ‘consume’ over 5 million tonnes of plastic packaging material each year, but many of us don’t ‘consume’ our share willingly. Why does chicken for a Sunday roast have to be put on a plastic tray? I appreciate that unwrapped food can’t sit on the supermarket shelf, but a chicken isn’t going to fall apart if it’s just shrink-wrapped. I’ll tell you why it’s on a tray – it’s easier to handle at the food factory, transport to the supermarket and unpack to put on the shelves, plus it looks better when on display. It’s all for the convenience of the supermarket and does nothing for the consumer, other than making it look neater.

Business waste

It’s not just domestic goods that suffer from too much plastic packaging – goods and materials delivered to commercial enterprises are often heavy on unwanted plastics too. Wooden pallets are re-usable, and can be recycled at end of life, but the content of the pallets is often shrink-wrapped or fastened in place with plastic bands or other plastic materials to hold it in place. Many other materials are delivered in plastic sacks and bags. Much of this packaging material ends up being either buried or burned, neither of which does any good to the environment.

Less packaging please

There is a great deal of effort being put into making packaging materials more environmentally friendly, and generally reducing the amount of packaging used, but until a major breakthrough is achieved, we are stuck with those plastics. The best you can do as a responsible consumer is to ensure that any waste materials from your home or your business are disposed of correctly according to best practice, and the best way to achieve that is to work with the real experts in the field of rubbish disposal – to get rid of your unwanted materials, call on a member of the Gumamah network for expert rubbish removal at a fair price.

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