One of the main objectives of Green Ant Plastic Recycling is to improve the quality of plastic raw materials recovered from the various waste streams.
The main reasons for this are:-
- better quality plastic raw materials require less effort and expense to recycle them which means recycling rates in the UK for those materials should increase.
- better quality plastic raw materials are more valuable and profitable than their lower quality alternatives so if small recycling company can produce higher quality recyclate they are likely to improve the strength of their business.
Weeds and Waste
Like a weed is only a weed when it is a plant growing in a place that it is not wanted, waste is only waste when it is a material that is not wanted. If plastic recycling is your livelihood then plastic waste is not waste to you, it is a valuable raw material.
Gone are the days when you can charge for taking away someone’s waste plastics or even get away with removing them for free, as most people and companies realise it has a value and expect to be paid for it and yet still too often they de-value it by mixing it with other plastics or contaminating it in other ways.
It often takes very little extra effort to prevent materials from being contaminated, and so we need to start educating our suppliers rather than continuing to accept lower quality.
The China Effect
Until recently, rather than looking to improve quality of plastic recyclate, the plastic recycling industry in the UK have relied heavily upon being able to send lower value, lower quality materials to China where the manual labour required to sort and prepare such plastics for recycling is a fraction of the cost of that in the UK.
However, for the last 12-18 months in particular the market in China has been changing and they themselves have been pushing for better quality plastic raw materials to import.
More recently thanks to the world spotlight on China for the Beijing Olympics; China’s record on human rights; bad press regarding UK waste sent to China for recycling where the standards and health and safety requirement for recycling are not as stringent as in the UK and the current economic downturn, China has pretty much closed the doors on poor quality plastic raw material imports.
This presents the UK with a problem as a large part of our governments waste strategy includes the exporting of waste to places like China. Without this market and without the infrastructure in the UK huge quantities of waste plastics are destined to be stockpiled or landfilled.
Why is Improving Quality so Important
If the fact that the biggest market in the world for plastics is insisting on higher quality plastic raw materials for recycling is not enough then consider how much extra profit your plastic recyclate could make for you if it was a higher quality.
The most common complaint about plastic recyclate is that it is contaminated with plastics of a different type, and in our experience (depending of course on the type and level of contamination) can disproportionately de-value those contaminated materials.
Poor quality could also cost you in extra transportation for rejected materials, extra storage costs whilst you find alternative customers and damage your reputation as a producer of quality plastic raw materials.
As an industry and as a nation we need to look at ways that we can improve the quality of the plastics that go through each stage of the recycling process. Some of these fall outside of the scope of what most small plastic recycling companies are able to do and form part of a bigger picture for plastic recycling.
What Can We Do
There is no magic formula that will ensure that everyone starts producing higher quality plastic raw materials in the words of Tesco “Every Little Helps” so anything you can do is a step in the right direction. Following are just some of the things that you can consider when looking at your business and how it can improve quality.
- Better Identification of Different Plastic Types
- More Effective Sorting of Plastics Prior to Processing
- Specialisation vs Localisation
- Quality vs Volume
- Education of Your Supply Chain
- Larger Production Runs (Fewer Clean Downs)
- Choice of Packaging
Work Smarter Not Harder
Inevitably producing higher quality plastic raw materials is going to require some effort on your part we would strongly advocate the idea of working smarter and not harder.
The current market conditions mean it is very much a buyers market. Use the opportunity to push your additional quality requirements back down your supply chain.
Put controls in place now that will still be there when there is an upturn in the market at which point you will be well placed to supply higher volumes of higher quality materials to your customers and thus reap the financial benefits without any real additional costs to your business.
Green Ant Plastic Recycling Consultancy
For more information about how Green Ant Plastic Recycling can help you improve the quality of and achieve higher prices for the plastics that you recycle please contact us 0n 01507 418111 or send us your details via our contact form.