Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Recycling in Somerset – new scheme includes plastic bottles and cardboard

I got stuck behind the recycling truck. What frustrated most was that it had just passed my house and I’d forgotten to leave anything out for them. But I’m a supporter of recycling.

When household collection was first introduced – about 7 years ago – my non-recyclable waste dwindled to almost nothing. Our home recycling system might appear to be rather complicated with about 10 different places for things to go, but actually it’s easy to operate. Under the sink for cans and foil, separate bins for home compost and council food waste, as well as different containers around the house for paper, cardboard, glass, cans, plastic bags, clothes, shoes, batteries and light bulbs. Phew….

Not all of this is collected. But I’ve discovered that Somerset Waste Partnership are starting to collect plastic bottles and cardboard, as well as paper, glass, cans, foil, clothes and shoes. The Sort It Plus scheme, sponsored by Marks & Spencer, is being rolled out across the county. Coverage is a bit eclectic at the moment, although everyone will be included by the end of March 2011. I’m one of the lucky ones – it was introduced in my area a couple of weeks ago.

As it turned out, I didn’t see the leaflet about it or the green box that’s supposed to be provided. But, before writing this article, I checked the SSDC website, where I found a very useful section called ‘My neighbourhood’. This told me what I needed to know about my local waste collection. – and some other things too.

Most people will be pleased to learn that they can now recycle plastic bottles. But less pleased that they still can’t recycle yoghurt pots. These are generally made from a different material, which is less recyclable, as the systems are simply not in place to deal with them.

Yeo Valley have tried to address this problem by making their yoghurt pots from PET plastic (recycled), which is what most soft drinks bottles are made from. Unfortunately, this doesn’t yet improve their recyclability in Somerset. The problem is in the sorting, as well as public confusion. Don’t despair, things may improve on this front – meanwhile all yoghurt pots have to go in the non-recyclable bin! And Yeo Valley still get brownie points for taking a lead.”

Another issue that I wrestle with is plastic bottle tops. When I went to look round a recycling plant , tops and stray bits were separated for recycling. But, in Somerset, bottle tops are not welcome, in particular if they’re left on a soft drinks bottle, because it can make them impossible to flatten and bale.

If you want to be a model recycler, you’ll put your plastic bottles, cans and cardboard in your black box – remember to flatten the cardboard – and your paper, glass and foil in the green box. But it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get it right. It’s also preferred if you rinse out dirty containers, so that people handling it afterwards don’t have to put up with the smell. However, if you use clean, running water to do this, particularly if it’s hot, you might end up having a bigger environmental impact than not recycling at all.

Somerset is trail blazing. The recycling truck may have made me late for lunch but I’m delighted it comes to my house. And perhaps next week, I’ll remember to put my waste out in time!


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