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British towns struggle to keep up with recycling following floods

August 14, 2007 at 12:34 pm

Reports suggest that a number of British towns hit badly by the recent floods are finding it difficult to maintain recycling rates. With many water-purification plants damaged by the flood waters, local councils were compelled to step in and provide stranded residents with bottled water. Government analysts have suggested that some 40 million plastic bottles were distributed across the affected areas.
In Tewkesbury, one of the towns worst damaged by flooding, authorities were, until recently, distributing bottled water at a rate of 100,000 bottles each day.

Now, as people attempt to clear up the waste left behind by the floods, most have sought to recycle the plastic bottles. However, local collection facilities are unable to cope with the influx of waste, having suffered damage to their infrastructure during the floods. This situation has hit recycling services in Gloucester and Tewkesbury particularly badly. Local authorities have taken a number of steps to alleviate the current situation. The collection firm, Recresco has set up 40 additional collection banks across other parts of the county.

By consequence, authorities estimate that bottles are now entering collection banks at an average rate of 3 million per day. Eric Gent, county director for the recycling firm, has highlighted the important role played by his organization in the post-flood recycling programs: “Staff got into the spirit and (we are) out (collecting) until 11 at night and then back again in the morning… It’s a good sign that even in a crisis so many tonnes (of plastic) were saved from landfill.”

Indeed, almost 8 tonnes of recyclable plastic have been collected from flood-hit parts of the county alone. High pressure vacuums compress the plastic bottles, allowing Recresco lorries to carry almost five times as many bottles compared to those used by other collection agencies. Final reprocessing of waste plastic is then undertaken by J & A Young Ltd. in Leicestershire.

Gloucester city council has praised the efforts of local residents who have remained environmentally conscious despite the disaster. The Environmental Agency has urged flood-hit residents to take the following steps to help local recycling authorities:

  • Members of the public are advised to flatten cylindrical bottles. This allows for more bottles to be squeezed into a single collection bin.
  • Households should store used bottles at home for as long as possible. Once collection services are up and running again, these bottles can be deposited in the designated collection areas.

If you have plastic bottles left over from the floods and would like to have them recycled, you can find your nearest collection facility by using the Recresco collection bank locator.

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