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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Cost hampers push to recycle plastic
By Yvette Austin
Environment Correspondent, BBC South East Today

Plastic bottles are unloaded from a lorry
Councils say the cost of transporting plastic for recycling is too high
A survey by BBC South East has found that fewer than half the local authorities in the region currently recycle plastic.

Those that do either have bottle banks or kerbside collections, often only in trial areas.

Those that do not, which include Kent County Council, say the service is under consideration but high costs are the main obstacle, due in part to the transportation required.

Costs can be higher than recycling paper for example, partly because there are only two processing plants in the country which process plastic.

Weight is an issue

The one most used by the region is near Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, about 150 miles away, while the other is in St Helens, Merseyside.

There is also another issue - weight.

Local authorities are set targets for recycling - and those targets are in tons.

A lorry full of paper is far heavier than a lorry full of plastic bottles, so bang goes the incentive to recycle plastic.

Those bottles that are taken to the processing plants are chipped, washed, melted and turned into drainage pipes for highways, byways, parks and farms.

Map showing areas which recycle plastic
Areas which do recycle plastic are shown in green

Demand is so high for the pipes that the company - Delleve Plastics - has to import 150 tons of bottles a month from Belgium.

That amount is half the total used at the Stratford-upon-Avon plant.

The company hopes that if people in England recycle more it will be able to expand, setting up plants from north to south.

The firm's tips for recycling plastic are:

  • Take off milk bottle lids, crush the bottles and put the tops back on
  • Put thin plastic flower pots and margarine tubs into the milk bottle bank
  • Also put in detergent and washing up liquid bottles - it helps the cleaning process
  • Only mix clear drinks bottles with milk bottles when asked - they are processed differently

The problem remains, though, of persuading local authorities to begin the process by providing recycling facilities for people to use.

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