Plastic: to recycle or watch it going up in smoke?
By Hamish Champ
Posted 9 August 2012
Everyone in their right mind wants to see plastics recycled. It makes sense on so many fronts.
But, as even the British Plastics Federation’s Philip Law points out, that fraction which you can’t recycle is better off being used to generate energy than finding its way into a great big hole in the ground.
Air Products’ investment on Teesside is a positive sign for the UK’s attractiveness as a place to invest, something the deputy prime minister highlights.
The development is also likely to be just the first in a series of facilities which will eventually produce energy for all sorts of things.
Which is all good. Isn’t it?
Well yes, it is, but there are caveats. The main one revolves around the public’s perception of what is recyclable and what one can just chuck away in the not-wholly certain knowledge that it is going to a good home.
Of course creating energy from waste is a good thing, but the message to consumers to look at what they are throwing away and what they are considering for recycling must continue to be pressed home and pressed home hard.
The recycling – reusing – of materials, any materials, is a vital component of a sustainable, viable society. But barriers, both political and economic, are always nearby.
The many and varied policies adopted by local authorities about how they and consumers dispose of recyclable and non-recyclable waste can be confusing enough.
Requirements to put certain types of waste in different-coloured containers can vex the most even-tempered and environmentally-minded of people; just ask TV stars Richard and Judy.
So yes, the Air Products venture is a good one. But we shouldn’t get carried away.
The last thing the recycling industry – and indeed the environment – needs is for consumers to start chucking everything, recyclable or otherwise, into their household waste on the basis they think it’s effectively being turned into cheap energy for their home, when in fact it could well be heading for a great big hole somewhere in China.
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