It’s ‘National Recycling Week’ & I am filled with hope as I witness the masses of materials that are beginning their recycling journey
Of the many different materials that I collected on the Isle Martin beach gun cartridges, bottle caps, rope, buoys, crates, etc only the plastic bottles and metal cans fitted the Highland Councils Recycling list. So it was these materials that I followed south to two waste transfer stations both located off the A9 just north of Inverness.
My first hot stop on Tuesday morning was at Munros a massive busy aircraft hanger on the edge of an industrial estate appropriately sited next to a neighbouring car crushing plant. As I waited in the shade of the site reception office for Billy Munro the owner of the company, who kindly agreed to meet and show me around I took in the site regulations and site check lists on the table noting that today the days temperature a sweltering 70 degrees, the fact that no wind /breeze was recorded and apparently there was no odour issue. I see these checks are required of the site at regular intervals throughout the day .
Billy Munro is a wonderfully open about his waste transfer business which he set up in 2007 as an addition to his demolition business. I quickly began to understand how the prime purpose of the recycling transfer business especially in the Highlands (and other low population density areas) is about receiving small loads from multiple destinations, combing like materials, loading them up into much bigger trucks for transferring on either to landfill or the companies actually carrying out the recycling process.
Walking into the hanger we were first confronted a multi-coloured paper mountain, the texture of the mountain face being made up of every conceivable type of paper you can imagine. This paper is heaped up sorted again into mixed or top quality paper piles ready for bailing and shipping out. The plastics and metals are sorted by 10 men along a conveyor belt, onto which mixed materials are automatically fed. The noise of the machinery and plant loading the hoppers is loud and the smell of the items on the belt is strong. The men move fast sorting out three different types of plastic bottles, while the metals are sorted by magnets and shot into different bins at the end of the line. The whole process takes place on a structure above the shed floor to enable the materials to drop down into different compartments.
Having carried my evidence bags of beach litter from Ullapool, I joined the line momentarily to add my plastic and metal to the line thankful that these few bottles and cans will be sorted and will go to be recycled to reduce the amount of oil and metal ore needing to be mined. . My hope is that the rest of the bottles from the litter lines and metal cans will also be somewhere in these mounds. By the end of the day the milk bottles collected on the beach should end up somewhere in a growing mound and the washing up bottles will be bailed up ready to sending for processing by the end of the week.
The transfer times of materials to the next stage of their recycling process is governed to a large extent by the market prices of materials , for example the price of drinks bottles (PET plastics) usually high apparently has dropped considerably due to an increase in Americas recovery of these items. So water and coke bottles will wait for the prices to rise, but unusually the milk bottles we towed off the island are presently fetching £400 tonne, more than drinks bottles worth £200. Billy began to explain the pricing fluctuations as we watched the bailing process top quality paper (corrugated card) which will be sold either to reprocessing mills in the UK in Rochdale and/or companies who ship it out for milling to India and China according to who offers the best price.
The importance of the market price of materials in determining the next leg of the recycling journey was a point that was re made to me later at Invergordon the Highland Councils own transfer station. Of all the materials coming into the stations Aluminium is probably the most profitable material per tonne,presently £700 tonne, but often much more. But as its light weight, it requires thousands of cans to make up a tonne. As my materials were sorted at the Ullapool depot the cans would be processed here like at Munros the metal is sorted using magnets but here the compacting and bailing is on a much smaller scale
The Invergordon Waste Transfer Station deals with tins and paper arriving from the roadside and centre recycling points from Ross & Cromarty. Here Dave the councils man on the ground sorts, loads, processes materials to make up economically viable loads to fill hauliers 44 tonne trucks heading to processing plants across Scotland, the UK and onwards Europe, Asia……
I am heartened to see the volume of materials being recovered, hopeful for us to improve the recovery of more materials and pleased to have been able to visit the teams of people working on the ground over the last week. They have helped me to begin to understand the recycling journey of materials we save. I will continue sharing the information I have collected over the coming weeks and ideas that are arising following the ‘Litter Lines’
A great way to celebrate National Recycling Week! Recycling Week has been held since 2004 and its mission has been to simply encourage us to recycle more. http://www.recycleforscotland.com/