Where does the plastic go that you put in the green bin?

recyclingThe variety of  items Orkney Islands Council will now recycle has widened. This is good news as the waste we don’t recycle in Orkney is sent up to Shetland where it is incinerated (to heat homes in Lerwick) at a cost to us of £150 per ton.

But before you think about putting it either in your green wheelie bin or taking it to the dump please consider the Orkney Zero Waste Yard: A Treasure Trove in Stromness. They will be able to advise you if they can take it and someone else might be able to find a use for it.

The whole issue of how we recycle our waste came to a head when China stopped taking in our recyclates. Up to that point China had been taking in half the world’s metals, plastics and paper. The figures make grim reading.

  • In 2015, the UK exported 14 million tonnes of waste and scrap for recycling or recovery abroad. Of this, around 4.5 million tonnes (almost one-third) was exported to China, more than to any other country we exported to.
  • In 2016, 74% of the waste paper we exported went to China. This is more than ten times as much as went to the next largest export market.
  • In 2016, 55% of the recovered plastics we exported went to China and Hong Kong. This is more than six times as much as went to the next largest export market (Malaysia). WRAP China – fact sheet

If we are no longer sending our recyclates to China what is happening to the ones we put in our green wheelie bins in Orkney?

Darren Richardson, Orkney Island Council’s Head of Infrastructure and Strategic Projects, explained:

Recycle For Orkney

Recycle For Orkney

“The China ban has affected a wide range of recyclates and it’s fair to say there has been a knock-on effect on the market value of most materials.

“The biggest impact for Councils in the UK has probably been on what’s called ‘co-mingled’ recyclates – so where households put out recyclables all mixed up together.

“Here in Orkney the recyclates we ship south are what’s called ‘source segregated’ – that is, recyclates are already sorted when they are shipped. It means Orkney’s recyclates are of a high quality and we can generally get a better price overall for our recyclates – which is important as obviously we have transport costs to offset. And they’ve held their own – none of our recyclates have been rejected by reprocessors.

“While the market value for some recyclates are on the rise, we are still seeing fluctuation of prices. We are taking the situation week by week and are stockpiling where we can if we feel that we’ll be able to secure a more favourable prices if we hold off a bit – but this is just so we can ensure we get the best value we can on behalf of the community for everyone’s hard work.

“We’ve had really good feedback from the reprocessors we use that the quality of our recycling is very good – and that’s down to the cooperation of our community in keeping their recyclables well separated and free from contaminants.

“So the message for everyone is really simple – keep up the good work, because your recycling is still being accepted by reprocessors and is still saving Orkney money on disposal costs.”

Here’s a list of what you can recycle in Orkney. It should be cleaned and separated

  • Plastic bottles:  Shampoo, household cleaner, drinks and  milk.
  • Cans:  Food, drink, aluminium foil, aerosol and metal lids from jars/bottles
  • Glass: Bottles and jars
  • Paper/Thin Card: mail, magazines,  cereal boxes, newspaper, envelopes and shredded paper.

You can find a full list including what will not be accepted for recycling at: OIC Recycle Reuse

environmentAdditional Information

Recycle for Scotland

Orkney Zero Waste Yard: A Treasure Trove

New App OLIO to Enable Sharing of Surplus Food

Reporter: Fiona Grahame





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7 replies »

  1. It is good to hear that recycling efforts by community and council alike are not being hampered by the change of stance in China. However, during your discussions with OIC, was there any mention of the situation regarding the recycling of cardboard from local businesses? If this is no longer being sent south for reprocessing, I would be interested to know what happens to it?

      • It could just be Chinese (pun unintended) whispers, but I had heard that it was not being sent south. Many thanks for taking the time to look into this.

      • A spokesperson from the OIC has confirmed that they are still taking cardboard from households and local businesses – local businesses can take it themselves to the commercial recycling centre, Chingliebraes, or they can arrange for a trade waste collection.
        And they are still shipping recyclates for reprocessing – there’s a load of cardboard and paper heading south over the next couple of days.

  2. Many thanks for following this through. Much appreciated. My company uses Orkney Zerowaste for its cardboard collection, as the charity is much more flexible in its approach. Their service provides more choice and less hassle, which is just about all you can ask.

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