It’s now easier than ever to recycle plastic – here’s what you need to know
New campaign Repeat the Cycle brings with it new rules about what plastic we can recycle and where.
By Amy Johnson
Many of us are increasingly conscious of our impact on the environment, especially what we throw away and recycle.
Recycling can be a bit of a minefield and it is often unclear what you can and cannot recycle, particularly in the case of plastic.
With the launch of a new campaign ‘Repeat the Cycle’ this week – a campaign focused around raising awareness about plastic recycling – here we unwrap some of the latest information and unpack how we can all do our bit to help…
RECYCLE YOUR PLASTIC BAGS AND WRAPPING IN LOCAL SUPERMARKETS
Until now, recycling plastic bags and wrapping (also known as ‘soft plastic’) has been difficult and confusing. These plastics are not widely collected in kerbside recycling systems and often end up contaminating recycling collections and causing environmental harm in landfill.
The good news is that it is now possible to recycle plastic bags and wrapping in local supermarkets (usually larger stores). These bins are normally located in the store entrance, but ask at customer service if not. Recycle Now have teamed up with Clear On Plastics for a new campaign called ‘Repeat the Cycle’, which joins forces with supermarkets, brands and local authorities to raise awareness about plastic recycling.
Examples of plastic wrapping now able to be recycled include:
- bread bags
- crisp packets
- plastic film lids
- pasta bags
- chocolate or biscuit wrappers
- fruit and vegetable packaging
- salad bags
WHAT PLASTICS CAN YOU RECYCLE AT HOME?
Generally, at home you can recycle plastic such as milk and drinks bottles, toiletries and shampoo bottles, as well as yoghurt pots, margarine tubs, veg punnets and trays such as those from chocolate boxes. Check what you can recycle at home and near where you live by searching your postcode on the Recycling Locator.
Ensure you have emptied and rinsed bottles and, where possible, recycle bottles and cartons with their lids on, as this means they get recycled too. See what happens to your recycling by watching Newcastle City Council’s new video.
USING LESS PLASTIC IN FOOD PACKAGING
A recent report from the UK charity WRAP has now recommended supermarkets stop selling some types of fresh produce in plastic packaging. It found that the packaging does not make the produce last longer and can force us to buy more than we need, adding to pollution and food waste.
This applies to bananas, apples, broccoli, cucumber and potatoes and, if adopted, could remove an estimated 10,300 tonnes of plastic packaging. While it may take time for these changes to be made, it’s an important step forward in reducing the plastic we use.
ELIMINATING PROBLEMATIC PLASTICS
The UK Plastics Pact brings together key organisations, such as businesses, NGOs and governments to tackle plastic waste. One of its key aims is to eliminate single-use plastic items that are problematic or unnecessary through redesign, innovation or reuse. This includes items such as plastic straws and cutlery. The pact will tackle issues around fruit net bags, sachets and plastic coffee pods.
By 2025, the pact aims to create a circular economy where 100% of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable.
THE UK’S RECYCLING SYSTEM ISN’T PERFECT
It’s difficult to recycle some types of plastic and we need to reduce our reliance on sending plastic recycling abroad, but a huge amount of work is being done to improve the UK’s recycling infrastructure. It is vital to continue this momentum to drive change for the environment and the economy.
‘Newcastle City Council sees reducing waste and recycling as a key contributor to our commitment to tackling the climate emergency and achieving net zero by 2030,’ says Dr Catherine Lyons, Principal Adviser Waste Strategy at Newcastle City Council.
‘We collect all the commonly produced and used plastics, including all types of plastic bottles and pots, tubs and trays. Most is treated within the UK, and all within Europe.
Other plastics, such as film and hard plastic that does get put in the bins, is separated out. There are currently few outlets that recycle these materials, but they are used to generate energy and none is sent to landfill. Packaging manufacturers are being encouraged through the national Resources and Waste Strategy to reduce the amount of these hard-to-recycle materials they use, and to reduce their reliance on plastic generally.
‘Ideally, reducing any waste is the most environmentally sustainable approach.’
GLOBAL ACTION TO END PLASTIC POLLUTION
175 countries have now agreed to a legally binding global treaty to end plastic pollution by tackling the whole supply chain. Work will now begin to implement the ambitious agreement by 2024.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
In 10 years, we’ve gone from recycling no plastic packaging to recycling 44% of it. Our efforts do make a difference. Recycling plastic keeps it in use, allows it to be reused and keeps it out of the environment. It also reduces the need for new plastic to be made from raw materials, saving on energy and carbon.
To find out what you can recycle near you, enter your postcode on the Recycle Now Recycling Locator.
SUPPORT LOCAL REFILL SHOPS
In our region, we have plenty of great zero-waste and refill shops where you can top up on items using your own containers and reduce the amount of plastic you use altogether. We’ve hand-picked a few below, but there are plenty more:
265 Jesmond Road, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1LB
173/175 Alley 4, The Grainger Market, Grainger Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 5AE
23 Cauldwell Lane, Monkseaton, Whitley Bay NE25 8SS