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Establish collection points

Having identified the plastics you're going to collect for recycling, the next step, if you are setting up your own independent recycling collection, is to decide on the type of collection container and establish collection points.

If you generate and are planning to recycle more than one type of plastic, you need to find out if these can be collected together or whether they need to be collected separately. This will depend on the types of plastic and application, the end markets and whether the plastic wastes are generated in the same areas of your business.

For example, if you are planning to collect expanded polystyrene packaging and PET drinks bottles, these would need to be collected separately due to the different polymer types and applications, as well as the fact that they will probably go to different end markets. If, however, you are collecting plastic film, it is usually acceptable to collect all polythene (LLDPE, LDPE, MDPE, HDPE) films together.

The following points should be considered when siting collection points:

  • Assess where the plastic wastes you're planning to recycle are routinely generated. For example, plastic bottles may be found in the work canteen or in offices, whereas off-cuts and production scrap will be generated on the factory floor.
  • Consider current rubbish collection points and any existing recycling points.Make collection of separated recyclables convenient for staff. Locating recycling points near rubbish bins increases the incentive for people to participate in waste separation and decreases the chance for contamination. If a rubbish container is located near a workers station and the collection point for plastic is 100 metres away, the likelihood of that worker participating in the plastic recovery scheme is reduced!
  • Clarify who will be responsible for emptying the recycling containers.Will this be done by those responsible for emptying the normal refuse bins, or will someone else be responsible? Make sure there are clear lines of responsibility and accountability for the success of the programme from the outset.

The following points should be considered when deciding on the type of collection containers.

  • Is the collection container suitable for the plastic you're planning to collect?
  • For example, if collecting large bulky items of plastic a larger container will be required than if collecting film or plastic bottles.
  • Is the collection container suitable for the location in which you are planning to put it?For example, smaller containers may be required for offices, whereas large open top cages might be more appropriate on the factory floor.
  • Is it easy to see what is in the container?It is easier to find an end market for clean material of a single polymer type. It is therefore important to minimise contamination of the plastic being collected for recycling. Many established schemes operating in the USA use large transparent bags for collection of plastics, as they make any contamination easily visible. For the same reason, these schemes tend to use open frame bag racks in place of conventional bins. When combined with transparent bags these racks can become highly effective tools for the recovery of plastic. The most common contaminants are unwanted materials (e.g. rigid containers and strapping being placed in with recovered film) and polymer types. Other common contaminants include paper and cardboard, glass, metal, food waste and dirt. These can often be avoided through the implementation of quality controls.

If you are setting up a scheme for a number of businesses you will need to decide on collection routes and vehicles. You will also need to decide whether you are going to supply businesses with collection containers and if there will be a charge for this and the collection of the recyclables.

You will need to provide participating businesses with guidance on the types of plastic you will be collecting, where you expect them to put the material out for collection and the day and frequency collection will take place.

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