We all know the reasons why recycling is important – I don’t want to teach my grandmother to suck eggs here. But I didn’t think it could be so fascinating! Steve Lovett and I went on a tour of the recycling plant (MRF) at Great Blakenham recently, organised by Transition Woodbridge. The session was well-run and lasted nearly 3 hours, and I could have stayed longer (What a nerd!)
The plant itself is a vast building full of conveyor belts. If you’ve ever seen Monsters Inc and remember the scene with the doors, you’ll get the picture. Although much of the sorting is done by machine, the initial stages are done by hand, with dozens of workers picking items off the conveyors. The work is noisy and a little smelly and needs quick reactions. It’s mostly done by east Europeans, so what will happen post-Brexit is anyone’s guess.
There are now revised guidelines about what you can and can’t put in your recycling bin – most households will have had a leaflet recently – if you haven’t, check out the website – http://www.greensuffolk.org/recycling/ Having seen the operation, it’s clear why we are asked to recycle items in a certain way. They aren’t just being awkward.
- NO waste in Suffolk is sent to landfill any more. As a clued-up Greenie, I was astonished to learn this. Whatever isn’t recycled, is sent to the new incineration plant across the road, where it is cleanly burned and turned into electricity, which can power around 30,000 homes a year, or a town the size of Lowestoft. All rejects from the MRF, and the contents of your grey lidded bin, go here.
- About 1500 used nappies A DAY are pulled from the recycling conveyors – yuk!
- Plastic bags and film. We are asked not to put plastic bags/film in the blue-lidded bins, (can be recycled at the ‘tip’) but there was so much of it there. It can’t all be removed in the processing and lowers the quality, and therefore value, of the ‘recyclate’ which is sold on to industry.
- Textiles. If, like me, you were disappointed to see that textiles are no longer included in kerbside collections, here’s why. This was a trial, but they found that 70% of textiles were put loose in the blue bins (rather than in bags as requested) so by the time they had gone through processing they were unusable. You can still recycle textiles in the roadside banks and at the tip.
- Tip opening times. If you use the tip infrequently, you may not be aware of the new opening times. All 11 in the county are now closed on Wednesdays. This is so they can be open longer at weekends and some evenings.
- A-Z Check out the A-Z of recycling at www.greensuffolk.org.
- Unsure? If you aren’t sure whether something can be put in the blue bin, it’s better to put it in the grey one, where at least it will be turned into electricity and not foul up the recycling process.
- Composting. It’s not worth buying ‘compostable’ nappies, carrier bags etc unless you are going to compost them yourself. Whatever isn’t allowed in your brown (garden waste) bin, won’t get composted from your blue one.
Now to book a tour of the incinerator!