Christmas is a time of giving, and for the organisation Recycle for West Sussex, the message was simple this year, ‘Give us your recycling this Christmas’.
Households in West Sussex already put more than 80,000 tonnes a year into their kerbside collection boxes, but there is a lot more that could be recycled, and of course Christmas is a prime time for the recycling industry.
“Most of recycling comes from packaging,” said Bill Griffiths, national recycling manager for Viridor, the company contracted to deal with all the county’s recycling.
“Cardboard packaging, glass packaging, steel and aluminium cans - it’s all packaging of items you purchase,” said Bill, while stood amongst the many whirring conveyors and state-of-the-art sorting technology of the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) at Ford, near Arundel.
Surprisingly, the centre does not smell as you might expect - the explanation simple: “It is a recycling centre, not a waste facility. We don’t want food waste or dirty nappies - just clean dry and loose recyclable materials. That doesn’t smell because it is not waste.”
Each hour, a blue HGV unloads 18 tonnes of our recycling at the MRF, collated from all the county’s districts and boroughs by Viridor on behalf of West Sussex County Council.
“At Christmas people are buying more products and gifts for people, so you have wrapping paper which can be recycled, as can the cardboard boxes it all comes in,” continued Bill.
“We drink more beer, we drink more wine, and more soft drinks, and they all come in packaging which can all be recycled.”
Viridor has invested £35 million in West Sussex to ensure it can maximise returns from recycling our waste - which for it is a resource to be sorted, packaged and sent for reprocessing, often to return to consumers back in its original form again.
This sets us on the path to developing what Bill terms ‘a closed loop society’ where materials are captured after their initial use, to be re-used again.
The recycling expert gave the example of newspapers because an impressive 20,000 tonnes of the 70,000 tonnes we put into our recycling bins each year comes from newspapers.
And as stated in this paper, newspaper is made from 78.9 per cent recycled content - and the ‘clean, dry and loose’ papers sorted at Ford are returned to the paper manufacturers to be re-made again as more newspapers.
In fact, Bill reckons it takes about seven weeks for a newspaper left for kerbside collection to make its way to Ford, be sorted and sent off to the paper makers, delivered to the publishers’ print houses and finally to appear again on the news stands ready for purchase as a new edition.
Meanwhile, 60 per cent of the glass that goes through Ford is recycled into new bottles and jars, the remainder used for aggregate in the construction industry.
Aluminium and steel cans are sorted too, and once again return to be re-made as new cans. The same is true for the recycled plastics which are sorted for type and colour before being baled and sold back to the manufaturers of plastic bottles.
“This all helps to make the whole thing completely sustainable, going around and around in a nice closed recycling loop,” said Bill.
However, for the system to work efficiently all the recyling we put out for collection must be ‘clean, dry and loose’. Wet paper, either contaminated by food or soaked by rain cloggs the machines and cross-contaminates other produce on the sorting run. Other issues stem from sharp metal objects snagging the equipment, or the wrong type of plastics, such as food trays, put into recycling.
The Ford MRF facility boasts over two kilometres of conveyor belts and high-tech equipment which separates glass and plastic, newspapers, magazines and cardboard, steel cans, aluminium cans and foil from each other - all to be baled, recycled and sold back to industry.
But for this system to work most efficiently, only these products must be left in our recycling bins - other recyclables can be taken to the eight household recycling centres spread around the county.
Fortunately, the simple adage of ‘clean, dry and loose’ is permeating throughout our local society and as a result the recycling rate is increasing.
“West Sussex should be very proud,” said Bill. “Both the county, district and borough councils, with Viridor, we all work in partnership, and that very much includes the house-holders and residents of West Sussex.
“It is a tremendous achievement over the past eight years - we have doubled the recycling rate from 22 per cent to to just over 44 per cent.
“But we can do much better. We know the recycling material is out there and we’ve got the facilities, with kerbside bins at home and the network of recycling sites, to do it.”
And if you are thinking of a New Year’s Resolution - here’s a simple one to achieve, recycle more.
For more information about what, how and why we should recycle in West Sussex, visit www.recycleforwestsussex.org