North-East plant proves viability of mixed plastics recycling

April 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm

A new recycling plant in Redcar on Teesside is leading the way when it comes to sorting and recycling different plastic types – an involved process that has so far proved beyond the capability of most other plants across the UK.

Since the disappearance of heavy industry in the north-east, high employment has dogged the region. For example, the closure of the world-famous Swan Hunter shipyard in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, meant a proud workforce there was reduced from several thousand to just 200 (in 2008).

Many people either relocated south (if they could afford to), or remained in cities such as Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland (and their surrounding areas), snapping up the low number of unskilled jobs available, or simply resigning themselves to years on the dole.

The sudden creation of many green jobs on Teesside has been a revelation, therefore. The recent rescue of the Tata Steelworks in Scunthorpe (now finally in the black) created similar optimism, but with recycling being regarded by many as ‘the future’, the feeling in Redcar is that those lucky enough to have been taken on there may well enjoy secure employment for many years to come.

At the plant, workers are fully trained in all forms of plastic rescue, but the laborious process of sorting different items by hand (according to plastic-type, etc.) has been replaced by a pioneering, innovative new system where all forms of plastic are made reusable through the adoption of an integrated approach.

And so, the days of separately sorting items such as plastic bags, dessert pots, sandwich packaging, and microwave meal trays seem to have been finally consigned to history, which is not only a benefit to those working in recycling, but also to consumers (who can often be confused over which of their household waste items are recyclable, and which aren’t).

Lord Henley, the junior environment minister responsible for waste and recycling, said: “The innovative technology will make life easier for families who have puzzled over recycling their yoghurt tubs and food trays. It is also a welcome boost to green jobs in the north-east!”

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