Biodegradability plastics ? A recyclers perspective
Biodegradable plastics sounds like a bit of a holy grail. That potential magic solution to solve the problem of disposing of plastic and especially the unsightly plastic litter issue.
However, we as plastic recyclers have serious concerns about the concept. Not only do we believe that allowing plastics to naturally degrade is a waste of valuable resources, but we are especially concerned about the potential for biodegradable plastics to enter into raw material streams, ie plastics which are collected for recycling.
Centriforce strives to ‘re purpose’ used plastics to give them a second (and perhaps third life) in new applications. Our main development activity is to work with clients to explore potential applications which may be able to use recycled plastic in their application. In many, if not most cases, our recycled plastics get used in applications where longevity and durability are key properties – often replacing wood and timber materials in applications where they will tend to quickly rot and/or be unhygienic to clean and maintain.
As such we go to great lengths to try and control and manage our feed stock materials to ensure that we can make products for our clients which will often be expected to last decades. The prospect of our raw materials being contaminated with bio degradable plastic -or put another way – materials which are specifically designed to breakdown in the atmosphere causes us to be concerned that it will have an impact on the durability and expected lifetime of our products.
Plastic Recyclers Europe, one of our trade bodies has recently just conducted some trials to explore this aspect of recycling and concluded that there is definitely some concern about biodegradable plastics filtering into the feed stock streams of recycled plastic. Noting that where the raw material stream was contaminated with biodegradable materials, the material processing and property profile was, unsurprisingly, degraded too. The link to the article can be found here.
In our mind, until biodegradable plastics can be easily screened and sorted from general purpose plastics, it is not a great solution for plastic waste. Much better to continue the process of working towards applications which can use recycled plastics – and even better efficient and cost effective ways to improve the quality of recycled plastic streams to enable property improvements and perhaps the ability to replicate the original material.
Dunnamore Boardwalk in Northern Ireland
Dunnamore Riverside walk is a circular 3-4km walk along the banks of the upper Ballinderry River.
The river channel is home to aquatic flowering plants , invertebrates and freshwater shellfish as well as a healthy population of fish. There is also a thriving wildlife on shore on the surrounding banks and woodland which means that it’s important to provide appropriate facilities for visiting pedestrian traffic.
As part of the walkway, a 90m recycled plastic boardwalk was built by volunteers last summer for a specific, high traffic component of the path near the visitor centre on soft ground alongside the river.
The walkway has now bedded into its environment extremely well and is settling down.
These pictures of the boardwalk were taken this summer (Summer, 2017) – but unfortunately the weather wasn’t kind to us on the day we visited!
Another exhibition use for GroundMate
Once again, the application was a grassed surface that needed protection for a short period of time for industrial machinery and pedestrian traffic.
RAILLIVE is a relatively new exhibition which brings together suppliers to the rail sector and was held at the Quinton Rail Technology Centre at Long Marston in the midlands.
GroundMate was used as a highly cost-effective ground protection system which could be used on certain stands as a temporary protection grass system. Quick and easy to fix together using the custom joining system, GroundMate provided the ideal system for exhibitors.
GroundMate provides temporary flooring solution for Cablex exhibition and conference
GroundMate ground protection boards were the solution which EA Technology turned to when it was looking for a temporary flooring solution for its ‘Demo Den’ marquee at their recent’ Cablex2017′ exhibition and conference.
Now, in its second year, EA Technology’s seminar and exhibition series which, this year, was focused on ‘all things power cables’ was based at Chester Racecourse. This venue was idea to allow the demonstration of both indoor and outdoor equipment.
Centriforce was asked to provide the flooring system for a new area to the exhibition which was in a temporary marquee. This area allowed a series of demonstrations by exhibitors throughout the day. The flooring had to be able to take a mix of pedestrian, machinery and vehicle traffic during the day.
GroundMate also found great use as a ground protection system for vehicles and heavy machinery during exhibition build-up and take-down days and proved its worth many times over. The racecourse naturally wanted to minimise damage to the grass surfaces on this heavily used events area and the ground protection boards did just that.
If you are looking for a grass protection solution which is both effective for pedestrian and vehicular traffic and, very cost effective, then take another look at GroundMate ground protection boards for your next project
Centriforce helps Knowsley Safari Park with Stokbord sustainable materials
Knowsley Safari Park is famous for its conservation work and a great day out for the family too.
It’s also a near neighbour of Centriforce in Liverpool and we were delighted to help them out with a new building project they had last summer.
As part of the Park’s development, Knowsley Safari Park had a need to create some additional housing for some new residents, South American Bush Dogs and Bongo Antelope. Although very different species, apparently the bush dogs are the smallest pack hunting dogs and the Bongo are amongst the world’s largest antelope (and have extremely large horns). The power and strength of a bongo together with their capable horns can lead to them causing damage as they test their strength and rub up against the inside of their house!
Not everyone will need to make their building projects ‘bongo proof’ but when Knowsley were looking for materials that were strong enough and tough enough to withstand the rigours of housing these animals, they turned to Centriforce and we were delighted to help them out by supplying them Stokbord recycled plastic sheet and board.
Not only is Stokbord strong and durable enough to cope with the requirements at Knowsley Safari Park, but it has been proven in use over many years in agricultural applications throughout the UK.
Knowsley was particularly keen on the sustainability aspects since the product is made from 100% UK recycled plastics too.
We hope the new residents at Knowsley Safari Park are enjoying their new home and have found their winter accommodation very comfortable!
If you’ve found this article of interest, call us for more information about Stokbord recycled plastic sheet and board.
Centriforce at the Avon Valley Nature Reserve
The Avon Valley Nature Reserve, located on the river Avon near Salisbury, is a wonderful stretch of land in a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Highly-thought-of by environmental professionals – the land is a Specialist Area for Conservation – the reserve is also a favourite haunt of walkers, runners, and nature-lovers alike.
To provide access and keep the local ecology in the best possible condition, a wooden walkway was installed by the council, so that locals and visitors could all enjoy the beautiful area without endangering the flora and fauna.
Unfortunately, the existing wooden boardwalk was al but destroyed when heavy winter rains flooded the area. In the aftermath, the land was at risk of damage from walkers and runners, so the city council decided, in consultation with landscape specialists, Aquascience, to replace the destroyed walkway with a recycled plastic boardwalk, which Centriforce was only too pleased to provide.
The new plastic boardwalk offered great durability, with a long lifespan and minimal maintenance, but most importantly it was completely resistant to damage caused by the river or any future flooding. Furthermore, there was no need for additional materials such as chicken wire to provide extra grip for walkers and runners.
The 472 metres of plastic boardwalk proved very popular with local people. Aquascience were delighted by how well the boardwalk established in after just one year from installation. Feedback was extremely positive.
We’re exceptionally happy with how this particular installation turned out. An effective solution for the council, a brand-new boardwalk for visitors, and the recycled plastic means it’s good for the environment too. What’s not to love?
If you’d like to see more of this installation, we’ve made this video on-location, showing the existing section and the extension which was still in the process of being installed.
If you’ve been inspired by this story and would like to hear more about what Centriforce can do, get in touch today by calling 0151 207 8109, or use our handy contact form.
Recycled plastic profiles used to replace a wooden boardwalk
The project forms a walkway alongside the River Avon in the Stratford Sub Castle area. The walkway replaced and extended the existing wooden walkway which had degraded and been destroyed in floods. Salisbury City Councils Parks Management wanted a durable, yet attractive walkway to enhance the area.
Working in conjunction with Salisbury City Council and Aquascience Ltd, Centriforce proposed a design fully compliant with all Disabled Access regulations to replace a wooden boardwalk. Despite a delayed start caused by the flooding, which took months to recede, the project was completed within the planned installation time.
The versatility of the design and products even allowed the layout of the walkway to be modified during construction to accommodate a water vole habitat.
The posts were driven by a handheld hydraulic vibrating rammer meaning that the entire installation was completed efficiently and without the need for heavy machinery.
Recycling is part of the defence against climate change
Sometimes we need to remember why we bother trying to recycle as much as possible?
Well probably the biggest reason is because the planet has finite resources and we need to make sure that we use them responsibly and extract maximum value from these resources. Plastics are just one example of this and far too valuable to use only once – and then dispose or incinerate so efficient plastics recycling is critical.
However climate change is another very important factor and recycling plastic makes a massive saving on water use, energy use and production of gases -especially CO2. So wanted to share an infographic that the UK Met Office has just produced which neatly explains what climate change actually is.
Our disposable society can’t be right for the 21st century
UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee have just published a report entitled, “Growing a Circular Economy: Ending the Throwaway Society” with some quite interesting thoughts and ideas to help the UK improve its environmental performance. Amongst these ideas is the headline grabbing, ‘lower VAT on recycled products’ which is something that has been proposed by some in the industry for many years to counteract our ‘disposable society’.
The Committee proposes a series of ideas which closely ally with ‘the waste hierarchy’. It starts with the principle that we should throwaway less and certainly one way of helping to achieve this is to make better products which last longer. We’ve probably all been frustrated by the cost of a repair bill on a large ticket item being such that it’s almost cheaper to buy a new item – and yet know in our mind that this just doesn’t feel right.
If we have to dispose of something when it has got to the end of its natural life, then clearly it makes sense for the items to be recyclable – but isn’t everything (virtually) recyclable? The issue here is contamination which is the root of many a recycler’s problems. Normally a recycler will be aiming for a key raw material, perhaps, paper, plastic, wood, glass and anything that isn’t the target is effectively contamination. Even within the generic term, ‘plastics’ which is our own area, we have to contend with numerous different types of plastics which have vastly different characteristics and performance.
So therefore purity is king -and getting hold of good quality raw materials with low levels of undesirable materials can often be more difficult that might be imagined.
Government does have an important role to play, by setting a vision and target for society to attain to and rewarding good performance – incentivising people to recycle more and be more ambitious in reducing our dependency on landfill and disposal.
We’ve long felt that providing a stimulus for people to buy recycled goods could be helpful and reducing VAT on recycled products is an interesting idea – but we probably shouldn’t hold our breath. The EU’s recent report on a circular economy suggests that we should be aiming for the capability to recycle over 70% of municipal waste and 80% of packaging wate by 2030. Although we have improved recycled rates significantly over recent years, it is becoming clear that our growth is levelling off and we are going to have to find new and more creative ways to improve our environmental performance as pressure increases on dwindling global resources over the coming decades.
PRNs and their important contribution to driving up UK plastic recycling rates
The PRN is back on the agenda as Government has promised to look into industry concerns that the existing arrangement favours export of waste materials rather than dealing with the materials on our own shores.
Centriforce Products, in common with other plastic recycling companies and the British Plastic Federation (Recycling Group), has long argued that current arrangements do not provide any incentive to invest in UK recycling. We were therefore encouraged when government agreed to look again at existing arrangements to determine whether it does contribute to the behaviour that it wants to develop and specifically at targets to increase plastics packaging recycling 5% year on year over the coming 5 year period.
RECOUP’s annual household waste survey has indicated that we have made great strides in recent years with plastic bottles now above the 50% recycled level. This of course is fantastic news, but clearly there is more to do – not least of which is the ~50% of bottles that are not recycled and which many regard as still low hanging fruit. There is a very clear need to increase recycling rates for non-bottle plastic packaging. According to WRAP , just 12-15% of mixed plastics end up being recycled. Why is this so low?
Perhaps the key lies in improving the quality of recycled plastics feedstocks. Demand in the UK is high for good quality, separated films and bottles, but yet it remains difficult to source the right raw materials since MRF’s are largely orientated to the export market which can take the vast volumes of material outputs.
The export market remains important and will be for the foreseeable future, but balancing PRN and export PRNs (PERNs) may help to improve output quality from MRFs and in turn drive up increased UK recycling activity.