RECOUP is registered charity funded by organisations in the plastic packaging supply, use and recycling chain. The aim of RECOUP is to promote and facilitate post-consumer plastic container recycling in the UK: to find ways to increase recycling levels and to overcome technical and economic barriers to growth.
When RECOUP was established in 1989, there was little knowledge of plastic bottle recycling in the UK. Today, 40% of UK local authorities operate a plastic bottle collection. At the end of 1998, there were over 3,300 plastic bottle banks and more than 2.5 million households have a kerbside collection including plastic bottles. What's more, the number of schemes is growing steadily.
Plastic bottles have become popular because of they are strong, inexpensive and lightweight - there are around 20,000 bottles in a tonne! 275,000 tonnes of plastic bottles are used each year in Britain – that works out at approximately 15 million bottles every day.
There are three main types of plastic used to make plastic bottles. These have different physical properties, which make them particularly suitable for manufacturing certain types of container. Once the bottles have been collected, they need to be sorted into these three types – HDPE, PET and PVC - to achieve the best quality recovered material and highest sales values. Material is sold against clear specifications, which identify quality standards for plastic bottles.
Bales of sorted plastic bottles are purchased by reprocessors. At reprocessing plants around the UK, bottles are chopped into small pieces, washed and dried. Any contamination is removed during the process, resulting in the output of high quality plastic flakes. These can be used to manufacture new items.
Plastic bottles can be recycled into a wide range of new and exciting end products. These include new packaging; pipes; industrial strapping; building products; fibre fillings for anoraks and sleeping bags; even new clothing such as fleece jackets and knitwear. Many new markets for recycled plastic have been developed in the last two years. It is exciting to think what may be made using recycled plastics in the future.
To find out the location of your nearest collection scheme, contact your local authority's recycling officer or contact RECOUP