A letter published in the East London & West Essex Guardian poses the question, “Has recycling even made any difference?”
The short answer is yes. The circular economy is making a welcome return and however much the powerful vested interests lobby our governments to curtail new technology, at the end of the day you can’t buck the market. Here’s a lovely example from our neighbours on the other side of Offa’s Dyke.
Polypropylene, that’s type 5 (PP) on the recycling symbols (there are actually 3 distinct types of Polypropylene, but we won’t go there), is a very valuable commodity and is the worlds second most widely produced synthetic plastic. But still large quantities are either incinerated or go to landfill, not because you don’t recycle your plastic bottles, but because quite a lot of it is what is known as “clinical waste”.
Thermal Compaction Group who have developed a process that could revolutionise the way healthcare providers worldwide deal with medical waste and it’s being pioneered at one of Wales' oldest hospitals (remember them?), St Woolos Hospital, Newport, part of the Aneurin Bevan (remember him?) University Health Board (ABUHB).
The year-long trial involves sterilisation wrap, which protects sterilised surgical instruments and equipment and is used extensively in the hospital environment.
"This is the first of its kind in the world”, said Tim Hourahine, Technical and Compliance Manager of TCG. “The trial has shown that we can take the wrap as waste, reduce its volume substantially, render it inert and then re-introduce it to the supply chain. The Welsh NHS is taking a close interest in what we are doing and other hospitals are very keen to embrace the technology.
“Currently, the majority of waste wrap is either landfilled or incinerated which is exceptionally expensive. The recycling process removes that cost, plus it produces a workable product which will have a commercial value in the future."
Meanwhile in Sweden they have more or less eliminated landfill with less than 1% of its household waste reaching that destination in any year since 2011. In fact they are so good at recycling that they actually import waste to keep their waste plants going. They have actually run out of rubbish. Here’s the full story including the pitiful UK figures in The Independent. Oh, and Sweden also sources about half of it’s electricity from renewables.