Recycling mixed-plastics in Cornwall – my experience 

It has been nearly six-months since Cornwall Council started its trial collecting mixed-plastics in certain locations.

There was in the beginning some resistance to collecting mixed-plastics because of the costs. However, the Cabinet, backed up by the PAC committee which looks at waste related issues etc, felt this was the right way forward and approved the trial. 

As this was a six-month trial, there will soon be a report published on how well it’s going. The question which needs to be answered is: has this trial increased recycling rates? I hope so; but for me this was not just increasing recycling rates, it is about stopping so much of our waste being put into landfill. 

In a household, it is hard to measure just how much rubbish you produce as we have general waste collections weekly and recycling collections fortnightly. So unless you want to be seen as Stig of the dump, you dutifully put out your waste out on those allocated days. 

However, I did not. In fact, for four months I collected all the mixed-plastics I could from the various food products I brought. I was staggered at just how much I collected.  I initially aimed to collect for six-months, but just run out of room to store it. So, I recycled it at the four and a half month period. 

They say a picture paints a thousand words:

This is a one adult (and child) household. If I did not recycle this packaging, all of it would have gone into landfill. The generally accepted time for a plastic bottle to biodegrade is at least 450 years. Yes you read that right, 450 years. 

The following chart gives averages of degradable years for different items.

A few things need to change. Food producers need to look at the types of packaging they used. I was staggered at the number of different plastics in use for packaging. We as consumers need to accept everything does not have to look pretty when we buy it. 

The reality is those two previous point are  going to be tough to change. So in the meantime, we need to recycle more, and that means rolling out the mixed-plastic collection to the whole of Cornwall. 


  • Gilly Zella Martin

    If Cornwall really wants to increase its recycling rates they should provide the dual bins in all public car-parks, these take recycling in one side and residue rubbish in the other.

  • Andrew Wallis

    In an ideal world yes that would be great. However, if a bin gets the wrong waste in it, it costs more to sort

  • Gilly Zella Martin

    The same could be said about the recycling banks in car-parks!

  • In france, they have communal recycling bins in local car parks and the system works very well, so yes Gilly, it would make more sense to increase the opportunities to recycle.

    Also I would like to point out that people on a plant based diet do not collect the staggering amount of plastic containers that meat eaters do, and I am sure that if people ate less meat and sourced it from farmer’s markets and local butchers, their recycling would diminish quite dramatically too.

    Many of us, those of us in ‘green’ organisations have campaigned tirelessly for many years to reduce packaging by the supermarkets, but one sure way to avoid it, is simply to buy elsewhere and consume less.

    Just some package free food for thought 🙂

  • Fran

    If you don’t want it going to landfill what happened to the incinerator… recycling is rubbish it costs more to ship half the stuff abroad or find a buyer, and where’s your carbon footprint there.

  • Andrew Wallis

    It actually doesn’t cost more. Landfill tax does. Which we have to pay for every tonne put in the ground.

  • Andrew Wallis

    Yep, and they are often cross contaminated

  • Fran

    I didn’t say recycling costs more than landfill, I said what happened to your incinerator?

  • Andrew Wallis

    Not built and operational

  • Fran

    And I don’t know what you’re talking about “they are often cross contaminated” I never mentioned that but now you come to mention it, the kerbside recycling boxes are often cross contaminated you’re right, so how’s that saving money.

  • Andrew Wallis

    Takes longer to sort. Plus it’s not only about saving money, but not putting it in the land.

  • Pingback: Cornwall Council to roll out mixed-plastic collections Duchy wide. – Cllr Andrew Wallis

  • Hi Andrew, was there a report published about this trial, and where might I find it?

  • Cornick

    Hi Andrew. Where can I get information about exactly what can and cannot be put in the plastic recycling bag here in Cornwall? I’m sure there are many thousands of us who look at a lid from a pack of Pringles, an empty WD40 can, a Ferrero Rocher box, an empty plastic tube of toothpaste etc, etc. and wonder what on earth to do, then chuck it in general waste rather than recycle or – as with some (all?) black plastics – get it wrong by putting things in plastic recycling which shouldn’t be. We want to know, we want to become experts, but where is the online help?

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