How old wheelie bins become picnic tables

Last week Holly and Louise were delighted to pay a visit to DCW and learn more about how they are embracing the circular economy

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Hillside (HPDL) and our supply partners are very conscious of the part we play in tackling the environmental costs of launching new products. There is a groundswell of opinion that says we should all be worried about where unwanted plastic ends up and for those of us in industry that work with plastic every day, it’s imperative that we work to improve knowledge about its use and its disposal so that good decisions can be made when deciding to use plastics.

We have been following with interest a story shared by Devon Contract Waste (DCW) over the last 12 months and we were delighted to pay them a visit last week. DCW has invested heavily in a process to turn clean and lightly contaminated plastic waste collected from their commercial customers into a brand new range of garden furniture. 

HPDL Director Chris Howsam says “DCW have created a circular product in the truest sense, and they must be commended for their efforts. The furniture looks and feels great and we wish Simon, Jason and the team every success with it. DCW are making a superb effort and our visit illustrated how we all need to learn about our unwanted plastics and review our purchasing decisions before we go through the till”. 

Plastic comes in many forms, types and grades, and DCW themselves are limited to certain polymers they can use in their process to create their bespoke furniture profiles. The Head of DCW Polymers Jason Goozée says “we are taking waste plastics collected from the south west and putting it through several processes to produce desirable finished furniture products all at our plant in Exeter”.

He adds “I was delighted to show the team from Hillside around our operation. We share a common goal and I know Hillside Design and their clients are championing responsible product design”. 

However, many waste plastics are not recycled for several reasons which can include the level of contamination or combination of mixed plastic types, the amount of labour required to sort and separate into types, or simply that the quantity of any single plastic type is insufficient to be viable. 

One particular source of plastic waste that can be used is broken wheelie bins. Wheelie bins can be pressure washed as single large items reasonably efficiently with relatively inexpensive equipment, but washing millions of yoghurt pots would need a multi-million pound wash plant. Sadly, a vast percentage of plastic waste is impossible to use again due to contamination and as a result the amount of plastic that cannot be re-used is a huge problem which continues to grow. Where that contaminated plastic waste ends up is a question everyone needs to think about because each local authority will be different in how they deal with waste they collect which cannot be separated or cleaned. 

Clean plastic resulting from manufacturing processes such as injection and blow moulding can be easily recycled because of its purity. Clean plastic can also be blended with small amounts of plastics which are easily decontaminated, such as fishing nets but only if the blend can be processed into a usable product such as a plastic plank or beam.

The grim reality is that there are mountains (literally) of contaminated plastic waste and comparatively speaking only tiny little mounds of plastics waste that are commercially viable to be used again to become a plastic item. Greenpeace say that less than 10% of everyday plastic is recycled so the rest has to be incinerated, landfilled or ends up exported into somebody else’s back yard. 

HPDL Director Chris Howsam added, “There are still only a very few companies actively engaged in solving this problem and we take our hats off to DCW for their efforts. At HPDL we use plastics intelligently and sympathetically by creating proper products that use plastics sensibly. We are doing our bit to shine a light on the use of plastics. But we are only a small part of the story and much needs to change if humans are to deal with the global plastic problem. “

Where does that change come from? This will be tackled in a subsequent article “The truth about plastic waste”.

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