Our Recycle Week beach litter research shows recycling on the go needs improvement, but plastic bags not the biggest issue

Last month’s Recycle Week shared the message ‘Recycling – It’s Worth It!’. We couldn’t agree more with this sentiment – sustainability is part of our DNA here at Cromwell Polythene. We are committed to supplying fit for purpose products with the lowest environmental impact for a net ecological gain.

Despite products, services and technology being available to aid recycling, more can and should be done to stop us being a throw-away society, particularly when outside the home. We actively promote ‘closed loop’ strategies that encourage the return of post-industrial and post-consumer plastics, board and other materials to the production cycle for reprocessing.

To help highlight this issue during Recycle Week, 24 volunteers (including family, friends and dogs) from Cromwell Polythene, recently took to our local beach at Filey on the North Yorkshire coast to measure the impact of waste and champion community recycling best practice.

Our beach cleaning and litter survey programme indicates much more needs to be done to improve recycling rates whilst on the go. The variety and condition of litter collected meant that it was not viable to recycle (too dirty or degraded). In most cases, with hard plastics, the items could have been recycled if they had been placed for recycling immediately after use.

As well as being a waste of precious resources that could be re-used or recycled, beach litter is a threat to marine wildlife, tourism and the fishing industry.

We worked over a 100 metre radius of the beach and the full results can be seen in our press release, but most interesting from our point of view was the fact that of 243 plastic/polythene items – including bottles, caps, cups, packets and party poppers – we only found one plastic bag (and that was a sandwich bag).

As our passion for plastic has increased, so too have environmental concerns connected with its production, distribution and disposal. However, as we have outlined in previous posts the real issue is not with plastics themselves, but littering itself, which is a social behaviour problem. The convenience, robustness, and lightweight characteristics, and economic processing cost of plastic, along with ease of product design means that plastic products have become part of modern life styles, but that does not mean that they should be less valued and discarded any more than other items. Measures like the expansion of recycling initiatives in public spaces will help more people to be able to recycle on the go.

We are striving to help our economy move away from the traditional linear model of using then disposing of these materials, to a more efficient system that retains the value of resources and keeps them circulating in the economy for longer.

We worked alongside organisers, the Marine Conservation Society and volunteers from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Centre, to pick and mark collections of litter found on the beach and would like to thank them for letting us join them and making us feel so welcome.

For more information about Recycle Week visit WRAP Recycling Week
To get involved in the annual Great British Beach Clean.