A Fresh Look at Recycling

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The local Alton recycling depot claims that it recycles 93% of what is taken there. It achieves this great result by providing for many types of waste including light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, paint, used engine and cooking oil, metal foil, wood, garden waste, burnable plastic, iron and steel, used batteries, electronic components etc. Only one skip is devoted to unrecyclable waste.

Of particular interest to me is the skip for bagged combustible waste used for energy recovery to make electricity. We look carefully for the triangle symbol, usually on the bottom of recyclable plastic bottles and consign those to the grey recycling bin at home, along with cardboard and paper. Where the plastic is not so marked, we assume it is not recyclable and we put it in a separate bin in our kitchen, from where we bag it and take it to be deposited in the energy recovery bin.

I like to think that, where plastics are currently unsuitable for recycling as plastic, burning them for energy recovery is a smart alternative. Having an enquiring mind, I looked up the Veolia site on the internet and learnt that they have an energy recovery site at Chineham which delivers enough electricity to power 10,000 homes. Veolia also list the amount of pollutant in the exhaust from the facility. Given the present excitement over oxide of nitrogen pollution from Diesel engines, I thought it would be interesting to compare the latest Euro standards (Euro 6) for diesel engined vehicles with the Veolia figures. Hmm. Veolia gives nitrogen oxide pollution as 200 milligrams per cubic metre of exhaust and the Euro diesel figures are 80 milligrams per kilometre, so no direct comparison is possible. However, it is very good to see that Veolia is prepared to publish all its emission figures.

So, even though those black plastic microwaveable dishes for your Indian meal and all that plastic film cannot at present be recovered as plastic, they can, being combustible, live a new life as the purest form of energy.

Nigel Hughes

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