Why can’t I recycle plastic pots, tubs or trays

Mixed recycling collected in Hampshire is sorted at one of two Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs)

These facilities sort items into different streams (e.g. aluminium, steel, plastic bottles) via a mix of mechanical and manual sorting. Our MRFs are able to sort plastic bottles from other materials via an “optical sort” whereby infra-red light is used to identify and separate two types of plastic bottle. They are:

  • PET (indicated by a number 1 on the bottom of the bottle)
  • HDPE (indicated by a number 2 on the bottom of the bottle)

These two types make up around 97%  of the plastic bottle stream, including milk, soft drink, cosmetic and cleaning product bottles.

Plastic pots, tubs and trays (PTT) are made up of a wider variety of polymers – e.g. PS, PP, PET, PVC, and LDPE. This range of polymers cannot be successfully sorted in our MRFs without investing significantly in new equipment, which at this stage would be prohibitively expensive. Even if the required equipment were to be installed, it is likely that there would also be the following issues:

  • Any recyclable material needs a viable and sustainable end market – I.e. a reprocessor who will physically recycle the material in a cost effective manner. Currently there is no viable market for over half of the PTT that we could collect. This is an issue facing all local councils - the destination for the material with no market would be landfill or incineration.
  • Sorting would not be 100% accurate, and it is likely the other material streams e.g. paper could be contaminated with plastic if PTT were added. This is because of the difficulty of trying to sort so many types of plastic. This would in turn reduce the monetary value of other materials.
  • PTT may be contaminated with food, which again could reduce the quality of other materials.
  • PTT made from the same polymer as bottles (i.e. PET and HDPE) are not of the same quality as bottles, and are not as desirable from a plastic reprocessor’s perspective.
  • Some pots (e.g. yogurt pots) contain more than 1 type of plastic – i.e. the rigid top and softer body – which cannot be separated.
  • Many plastic trays are black. When these are on black conveyor belts in the MRF they cannot be “seen” by the optical sorting technology and will therefore end up being disposed of.
  • It is estimated that recycling rates would increase by less than 1% if PTT were to be accepted.

Project Integra has recently carried out a review into alternative materials we could add into our kerbside recycling, but for the reasons described, widening the range of plastics accepted is not viable in the short term.

Recycling bin
Rubbish bin
Garden waste

Recycling

Recycling bin

All of the recyclable materials from Hampshire's kerbside collections (cans, plastic bottles, paper, card, tins and empty aerosols) are sent to one of two Material Recovery Facilities in the county, in Portsmouth and Alton.

The materials are separated using a combination of manual and automatic processes, including magnets, conveyor belts and lasers, before being baled up and sent to private companies for recycling into new products.

Recycling

Together, the two facilities are able to handle up to 157,000 tonnes of recyclables every year. 

 

Rubbish

Rubbish bin

Most of the non-recyclable waste collected from homes in Hampshire is taken to one of three Energy Recovery Facilities located in Marchwood, Chineham and Portsmouth.

These facilities safely incinerate the waste and use the heat from this process to create steam, in turn generating electricity which is fed to the National Grid.

Rubbish

Each year these facilities create the same amount of electricity to power 53,000 homes. 

Garden waste

Garden waste

All the green garden waste collected at Hampshire's recycling centres, as well as that from any local collections, is taken to one of two composting sites in the county, Herriard near Basingstoke and Chilbolton near Stockbridge.

The green waste is composted in long heaps called windrows for 20 weeks and turned so it breaks down evenly. The finished product is 'Pro-Grow', a high quality soil conditioner that is available to buy at every recycling centre.

Garden waste

Together, the two sites process over 100,000 tonnes of compost material every year. 

Landfill

Landfill

There is now only one landfill site open in Hampshire for disposing of household waste.

The only household waste currently landfilled is bulkier items delivered to recycling centres, but we are working to address this further and move as close to zero landfill as we can.

The County Council is also responsible for 11 closed former landfill sites, and has a duty to ensure that they are returned to nature as best as possible.

Landfill

Hampshire sends less than 10% of its household waste to landfill - less than any other UK county council.