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Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

Tesco and Unilever help protect the rainforest

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Global brands, Tesco and Unilever, have both launched campaigns aimed at protecting the world’s rainforests and improving the sustainability of supply chains.

Tesco has announced a partnership with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) entitled ‘Together for Trees’, which is designed to raise more than 1 million for rainforest projects worldwide. Money raised will be used to support the RSPB’s existing rainforest work, including projects in Harapan Rainforest in Indonesia, Gola Rainforest in West Africa and Centre Hills Nation Park in Montserrat.

The supermarket’s customers will be asked to donate to the scheme either directly or through the ‘green’ Clubcard points they clock up when re-using carrier bags or recycling printer ink cartridges. Tesco also hopes to donate £75,000 from the sale of Together for Trees reusable bags. Funds raised through the mandatory plastic bag tax in the chain’s Welsh stores will be handed over to RSPB Cymru.

Tesco has also announced plans to work with the RSPB to reduce the impact of its product supply chains on forest environments. This co-operation is expected to involve developing a new sustainable sourcing strategy for six tropical commodities that are commonly used in Tesco products – palm oil, beef, soya, paper, coffee and cocoa.

David North, Tesco UK Corporate Affairs Director, commented, “As a leading retailer, we also have a great opportunity to engage our customers to help protect our environment. We are proud to be working with the RSPB – the partnership reinforces our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and brings us one step closer to creating a greener future for our children.”

Meanwhile, Unilever has been announced a new target for making its Magnum brand the world’s first ice cream to source 100% of its global cocoa supply from Rainforest Alliance-certified farms by 2015. The FMCG giant already offers two ice cream products that are made using only Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa – Magnum Ghana and Magnum Ecuador – but it now plans to speed up the introduction of certified supplies across all of its products. Unilever wants to ensure that 60% of its cocoa supplies come from sustainable sources by the end of this year, with the aim of delivering 100% certified supplies by 2015.

The Magnum commitment is the latest step in Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, under which the company is committed to halving the environmental impact of its products by 2020.

EC bag consultation shows depth of feeling – and depth of ignorance

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

With the European Commission having published the results of its consultation on the use of plastic bags, the plastics industry is awash with comment and debate. Many pundits feel that the report reveals an alarming level of ignorance among the European public about the effects of plastic on the environment.

A staggering 97 percent of responses ’strongly agreed’ that action is needed to curb plastic bag use. Comments included the following statement:

“Plastic is destroying our environment and is a pollution that is not necessary. It is has a deep bad impact on nature and it is poisonous for all living systems. There are basically profit-interests behind using so much plastic. We should avoid using it and the EU should decide against unnecessary plastics.”

Strong stuff and rather spurious. Another respondent claimed:

“Carrier bags are a needless drain on our oil resources and can be easily replaced by reusable bags.”

This perhaps overlooks the point that plastic bags are, in fact, reusable!

Unsurprisingly, the plastics industry is fighting back with a vengeance. For instance, PRW.com – the online version of Plastics & Rubber Weekly – referred to some of the public’s comments as “baseless twaddle”.

One thing is clear: the plastics industry – and plastic bag suppliers in particular – are very likely to be facing action from the EC in the near future.

Unilever partners local council for recycling initiative

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Fast-moving consumer goods giant, Unilever, has announced plans to work in partnership with Torbay Council in a pilot project for mixed plastics recycling. This is the first time Unilever has worked with a council on such a scheme and its decision has been commended by the Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP).

The name behind famous household brands such as Wall’s, Flora, Persil, Dove and Knorr will support the council’s new mixed plastics recycling initiative. From December, the 60,000 households in Torbay will be able to recycle their mixed plastics by adding them to their weekly refuse collection, to be sorted in transit. Materials that previously went to landfill that will now be recycled include margarine tubs, noodle pots and ice cream tubs.

Torbay Council’s Executive Lead with responsibility for waste disposal and recycling, Councillor David Thomas, said, “It is thanks to the fantastic efforts of Torbay residents that we have increased the Bay’s recycling rate to 45 per cent. We are aware they would also like to recycle plastics and other items, and we are really pleased that our joint venture company, TOR21, has been able to find outlets for these items. We are also extremely grateful to Unilever for their support for our latest initiative.”

Commenting on behalf of Unilever, Louis Lindenberg, Global Packaging Sustainability Director, said, “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Unilever. In the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we made a global commitment to halve our environmental impact by 2020 across the life cycle of our products, incorporating a pledge to increase recycling in countries all around the world, including the UK. This project with Torbay Council is a great example of our commitment in action and our way of helping consumers to do their part for the environment.”

About a million tonnes of non-bottle plastic packaging are disposed of by households each year in the UK. With this new programme, Unilever and Torbay Council are demonstrating how this type of packaging can be collected and recycled effectively into valuable resource streams.

Winnipeg’s recycling off to a flying start!

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Many people reuse their carrier bags in inventive ways – as kitchen bin liners, somewhere to put a wet swimsuit after a dip and, of course, for collecting the inevitable when taking Fido for walkies. The ‘Take Pride Winnipeg!’ campaign takes the prize for inventiveness, however, with its recently launched programme that encourages students to collect plastic bags plastic bags for recycling into frisbees.

Dubbed ‘Bag Up Manitoba’ – after the province in which Winnipeg is located – the campaign will run during October at primary schools throughout the area. When originally launched in 2008, the programme included only schools in Winnipeg but the goal this year is to collect half a million plastic bags from 150 schools. ‘Take Pride Winnipeg!’ – a non-profit organisation committed to inspiring civic pride, raising public awareness and promoting citizen responsibility to make the city cleaner and more beautiful – is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

A taxing problem

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

The debate goes on as to whether it’s a good idea to place a tax on plastic carrier bags. Evidence seems to show that the volume of plastic carrier bags might fall when they are taxed, but that consumption of alternatives increases. According to the USA’s Packaging and Business Films Association, the result is that limited resources are consumed more quickly and more material ends up in landfill sites.

A bag tax is levied in a number of American states and there has been considerable research on the environmental effects, with many studies showing that the net result is negative through increased exhaust emissions, more congestion on the roads and more waste going to landfill.

The Republic of Ireland’s carrier bag tax led people who had been reusing plastic bags as bin liners and for collecting pet droppings to purchase heavier-gauge refuse sacks. As a result, many claimed, there was no major change in the total tonnage of plastic bags used in the country.

What’s more, manufacturers of plastic bags claim that they are less polluting than paper bags during production. Studies by Winnipeg Varsity demonstrate that plastic bag production uses only one third of the energy, results in half the pollution and needs only one eighth of the raw material required by equivalent paper bag manufacture.

Plastic bag reuse is also a strong factor in the argument. According to research by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (defra), plastic carriers are reused by eighty percent of homes. At the end of its useful life, plastic waste can be used in several European nations for waste incineration, as the energy released has greater calorific value than coal. The plastic film industry encourages more clean incineration of waste to help reduce dependence on landfill but it must be remembered that carrier bags take up a mere 0.3% of landfill.

WRAP reveals plastics recycling breakthroughs

Monday, September 26th, 2011

WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has revealed that it could soon be possible to recycle almost all plastic packaging waste from domestic environments. Although over 300,000 tonnes of plastic packaging is collected for recycling each year – including a large number of plastic carrier bags – more than a million tonnes ends up going to landfill sites due to the problems of collecting and recycling films, detecting and sorting black plastics and the lack of high-value markets for non-bottle plastics.

WRAP – which works in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to help businesses and individuals reap the benefits of reducing waste – has identified a type of black plastic which, unlike conventional black plastics, can be detected by sorting systems in materials recovery facilities (MRFs). In a series of trials funded by WRAP, methods have also been identified to recycle complex laminated plastics, plastic films and polypropylene (PP) – materials that would typically be destined for landfill.

The tests found that, by using non-carbon pigments in the manufacture of black plastics, it is possible to create a material that is almost identical in colour but which can be identified by the type of optical sorting equipment used in MRFs. This development, WRAP believes, could lead to the widespread recycling of the most common plastic used in packaging into high-value, single-polymer materials.

For complex laminated packaging – as used in toothpaste and cosmetics tubes – another trial has found a way to recover the layer of high-value aluminium that is sandwiched between plastics. WRAP estimates that the 140,000 tonnes of this laminated packaging in the UK waste stream has an aluminium content of around 13,500 tonnes.

A further trial has resulted in a technique that could recycle post-consumer PP back in to material suitable for food-grade applications. Further work is required, but WRAP believes this development could help to grow high-value markets for recycled PP. It could also result in significant environmental benefits as retailers begin to use it in their packaging.

Interestingly, a method has also been developed that cleans and recycles contaminated film, producing a pellet with a sales value of £400 to £500 per tonne. The cost of sending this material to landfill is currently around £80 per tonne, so WRAP says the advantages of recycling this material are clear.

Commented Marcus Gover, Director of Closed Loop Economy at WRAP, “When we first looked at recycling non-bottle plastic packaging back in 2007, we carried out detailed studies to make sure it would be technically and economical viable. We also carried out a thorough life-cycle assessment to make sure it was the best environmental option. We’re now seeing this recycling becoming a reality, creating jobs and re-invigorating the manufacturing industry in the UK, reducing our reliance on exports.” He continued, “There have been, and there are still, barriers to overcome and WRAP will continue to work closely with the industry to develop these new methods and technologies so that, in the future, local authorities can offer their residents a way of recycling even more of their plastic packaging.”

Retailers extend plastics recycling scheme

Monday, April 11th, 2011

The Packaging and Film Association (PAFA) has welcomed the planned collection of clean plastic film – including bags – by some of the UK’s leading high street retailers. The initiative, which is spearheaded by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), aims to recycle 645,000 tonnes of material per annum and is being backed by all the big names including Asda, the Co-op, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

Barry Turner, CEO of PAFA, said, “Plastic film packaging helps save food waste by protecting and preserving products and we have always had the technology to recycle it. Now, through this initiative by major retailers, the consumer has a real opportunity to boost plastic film recycling by placing film wrappings – including everything from bread bags to toilet roll and kitchen roll wrap as well as unwanted carrier bags – into the recycling bin whenever they go shopping.”

The new initiative has been made possible by the growth in the number of recycling bins for plastic carrier bags at supermarkets, which has risen to more than 4,500 collection points throughout the UK.

“In spite of the fact that local authorities are reluctant to collect thin packaging films from households or at the kerbside,” continued Barry Turner, “this retailer initiative now means that the opportunity to recover the value from lightweight protective plastic film is within everyone’s reach. It means that no-one should worry about the environmental credentials of plastic packaging in the future if they stick to the practice of reduce, re-use and recycle.”

Head of Environment at the BRC and Director of the On-Pack Recycling Label scheme, Bob Gordon, added, “This announcement shows retailers are prepared to go above and beyond what is expected of them to support customers’ environmental efforts. We know many consumers want to do their bit for the planet and this move will be a big help.”

First UK recycling plant for mixed plastics opens

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Biffa Polymers has opened the country’s first fully integrated sorting and recycling facility for mixed plastic packaging in Redcar, Middlesbrough. Brought about with help of a 1.2 million grant from the government-backed WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), the new plant will create 28 jobs in the local area. The facility will begin the processing of 15,000 tonnes of mixed plastics per year from next month, ramping up to its full 20,000 tonnes per annum capacity after the first year.

The plant will process plastics from Biffa’s material recycling facilities, in addition to waste from local authorities and commercial clients in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

After sorting by polymer type and colour, the plastics are processed to produce a high-quality output that is suitable for a broad range of applications. A proportion of the plant’s output will be processed through Biffa’s food-grade HDPE recycling facility – located on the same site – and be used in the manufacture of new milk cartons. Biffa Polymers was the first company in the UK to produce food-grade recycled HDPE plastic.

This move is just one of a number of recent initiatives that are helping to make plastic packaging – including plastic carrier bags – a more sustainable option.

Waste plastic as a fuel source

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Foster Wheeler – the engineering organisation with significant expertise in the oil, gas and refining industries – has been awarded a contract by Cynar PLC to provide basic process engineering design services for a new plant that will convert non-recyclable waste plastics into liquid fuels – primarily diesel.

Cynar already has one plant operational in Portloaise, County Laoise, Eire. Its unique technology converts mixed waste plastics into low-sulphur hydrocarbon fuels through a process of liquefaction, pyrolysis and distillation. The process can handle most of the waste plastics that are currently sent to landfill or incinerated and Cynar plans to establish up to such 30 plants across the UK and Ireland. Each plant can process up to 20 tonnes of waste plastics per day, producing up to 19,000 litres of fuel products at a conversion rate of 95%.

Commented Michael Murray, CEO of Cynar, “Cynar chose Foster Wheeler to assist with our technology development because of its wide ranging engineering expertise and in particular its oil refining knowledge and capability. Currently all end-of-life plastic ends up in landfill and Cynar’s technology can go some way to reducing this ever increasing problem whilst providing an alternative to fossil fuel.”

Swiss recycling report prompts backlash

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

EuPR (European Plastics Recyclers) has dubbed a Swiss report that suggests landfilling could be preferable to recycling for PET bottles as “unwise”.

The report from SRI Consulting – entitled “PET’s Carbon Footprint: To Recycle or Not to Recycle” – analysed the carbon footprint of PET bottles and secondary packaging from the production of raw material to disposal. It concluded that landfilling for plastic bottles could have a lower carbon footprint than recycling in countries with recycling yields of lower than 50%.

In response, Casper van den Dungen, Chairman of the EuPR PET Working Group, has said that the report’s analysis would result in the loss of “valuable material in landfills”. Mr van den Dungen argues that the model used in the report is intrinsically wrong, as in reality landfill should be avoided as a starting principle. “These kind of studies are hazardous because they are bringing a wrong message to the population that their efforts to recycle are useless,” he says. “It goes against all the efforts achieved during the past decades in order to reduce litter.”

SRI Consulting found that deposits and segregated collections resulted in a higher yield than kerbside collections in terms of generating material to replace virgin PET in new products. The report’s authors say that the aim should be to boost the yield to more than 50% of material being collected being turned into new products. “This key is not in raising collection rates, but in improving yields, especially in sorting and to a lesser extent in reprocessing,” comments Mike Arné, Assistant Director of SRI Consulting’s carbon footprint initiative. “For countries without a recycling infrastructure and sufficient space, the best choice may well be to landfill bottles.”