On Saturday 21 October, following our Repair Cafe, Planet South Bank hosted a community recycling talk to explore some possible solutions for better disposing of plastic waste and ways to avoid single use plastics.
The event included guest speakers from Terracycle, which provides recycling initiatives that extend the lifespan of plastic items otherwise bound for landfill, and ‘I Am Reusable‘, a local online store that enables consumers to ditch single use plastic items in favour of those that are reusable and plastic free.
Why was this important to us? Currently, the only plastics that City of York Council can recycle at the kerbside are plastic bottles. Despite many people’s best intentions – i.e., filling their recycle boxes with all kinds of other plastics (margarine tubs, yoghurt pots and plastic trays and cartons are often thrown in) – anything that’s not a plastic bottle is only going to end up in landfill or contaminating the load.
The council is hedging its bets on a new incinerator (at Allerton Park; due to open in 2018) to provide a “solution”, opting to burn any household waste that is beyond its recycling capabilities. Not everyone is happy with this approach and the passing of planning permission for the incinerator in 2010 by City of York and North Yorks County Council was hugely controversial, generating petitions and protests. Given this unease, and the urgency of the plastic pollution problem, Planet South Bank and friends are planning to take their own action on dealing with plastic waste locally.
So far, we’ve spoken with and surveyed local traders on Bishopthorpe Road in York, not only to get some insight into their waste content but to see if we can garner their support for trialling solutions in the area. In the near future we hope to create a pilot scheme giving local people increased access to more diverse plastic recycling options, one of which is Terracycle’s Zero Waste box scheme.
We had a Skype call with Terracycle to discuss the huge range of plastic items they can recycle (reuse and upcycle) to lessen the need for the use of virgin plastic. Some of the recycling options are free, including: McVities biscuit wrappers, pens, cigarette butts and Garnier personal care products. In addition, Terracycle provides the means to recycle almost any other plastic item through a paid-for service.
Planet South Bank will be active in encouraging the implementation of the free recycling programmes, seeking locations to host community drop off sites (pen recycling in schools, etc). We’ll also be seeking other organisations and businesses to host the paid for waste boxes, providing the community with a place to better dispose of their waste. This will be done where a correlation exists between the products they sell/provide and the waste it then creates. We hope that those we approach will be receptive and see value in the initiative as a means of being ecologically responsible, whilst potentially attracting new custom from those who come to use the service.
‘I Am Reusable’, from the Leeman Road area of York, also came along to the event and showcased some of their many non-plastic and alternative products. Their message was simple: you as a consumer can buy better to cut your waste, and in some cases even your costs, by taking advantage of reusable cup use discounts at many coffee retailers. Take a look at their store and view a video of the presentation.
We look forward to keep you up-to-date with developments in the near future and we welcome any comments, questions or offers of help!
Why is plastic so detrimental to the environment?
- Almost every piece of plastic ever made is still on the planet in some form and half of the (+) 350 million tonnes of global annual plastic production will be used once, then thrown away, with only a small fraction being recycled.
- Plastic harms wildlife, which can get caught in it (e.g. netting of plastic can holders) or eat it (from bottle tops to bits of plastic bags)
- (+) 5 trillion tiny pieces of plastic are afloat in our oceans, broken down by UV rays, waves and salt, to create micro plastics. These have subsequently been filmed being eaten by plankton, representing the introduction of plastics in to the wider food chain: plastics absorb chemicals and toxins that are free-forming in the ocean, once consumed by (fish) they build up and are then eaten by humans.
- Burning plastic in the open air releases hormonal disrupting, toxic, phthalates that have been proven to interfere with growth, early development in children, reproduction and the metabolism. (Emissions from modern incinerators are highly regulated and controlled.)