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. 

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