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Manx recycling routes safe despite UK problems 15 January 2009

The global financial downturn has led to the collapse of some foreign markets for recycled materials. But despite scary stories in the UK media DLGE have today assured the public that Manx recycling routes are safe.

Stephanie Gray, Recycling Manager at the Department of Local Government and the Environment, said, ‘All our recycling routes are robust – and we’re confident that the materials collected through our bring banks and the kerbside scheme are still being effectively processed into new products.’

Since last November the UK press has reported ‘mountains of waste’ building up at Council depots across Britain. The problem has been created partly because the demand for new cars, electrical goods (such as washing machines) and new homes, which provide a market for recycled materials, have tailed off in the global downturn.

Many Local Authorities in the UK have been sending materials for recycling to the Far East and Asia, but the prices paid for bulk recycling on these routes have plummeted. Recycled cans have fallen from £200 a tonne to £20, while paper and card have dropped from £60 a tonne to just £10. The cost of making plastic from oil has also become cheaper than reusing recycled materials because of the drop in the price of a barrel of oil. This has led to big increases in stockpiles of recycled waste, which contractors are struggling to clear.

However, this isn’t true when it comes to recycled waste collected on the Isle of Man – the majority of which is reprocessed in the UK, and turned into… well, as they say… the possibilities are endless. All the paper collected on the Island, from public recycling sites and kerbside collections, is sent to the UK’s largest paper recycling mill, UPM Kymenne in Shotton, North Wales. The paper mill uses newspapers, magazines and junk mail to manufacture rolls of recycled newsprint, which are sold to newspaper publishing groups, including Isle of Man Newspapers who use it to produce our local papers: the Examiner, Independent and Courier.

Stephanie Gray said, ‘We decided to work with UPM Kymenne for environmental, financial and ethical reasons: transporting material to UK rather than China reduces carbon emissions; the paper mill guarantees us £75 a tonne for our paper, and we can audit working conditions for UK employees, unlike those for workers in the Far East.’

‘The income we receive for our paper offsets our handling and transportation costs, which means that our paper recycling operation is amongst the most robust and sustainable in the British Isles. UPM Kymenne has also told us that the quality of our paper is in the top 10 out of over 200 of their UK suppliers. This is because contamination of the recycling banks (when people put the wrong stuff in) is very low.’

But it isn’t just the Isle of Man’s paper that’s recycled in a sustainable manner. This is what happens to the rest of the Isle of Man’s recyclable waste.

Glass bottles and jars – collected via public recycling sites & kerbside collections: Our recycling route for glass bottles and jars is very secure. We recycle all our glass on the Island at Corlett’s, Ballaharra, St. Johns. The glass is crushed and cleaned and the re-used in a new building product called ‘Eco-sand’. This recycling process also helps to conserve our own sand quarries.

Aluminium cans & clean foil – collected via public recycling sites & kerbside collections: All our aluminium is shipped off-island to Novelis, the UK’s largest aluminium can recycling facility, which is based in Warrington, Cheshire. The aluminium is recycled into new drinks cans, which are usually back on our supermarket shelves within 6 weeks.

Dry-cell batteries – collected via Civic Amenity Sites, Co-op stores and Glen Mona Garage: These are shipped off-Island to G&P Batteries in the West Midlands for sorting and onward recycling, mostly in the UK. The metals are re-used in the manufacture of new industrial metallic products.

Plastics - collected via kerbside collections: These are shipped to Recoup, the leading UK plastics recycling charitable organisation, based in the North West of England. Here they’re sorted and processed into flakes or pellets to make a range of new products including food trays, plastic pipes, plastic sheeting, fleece clothing and pet bedding (see photos attached).

Steel food cans & aerosols – collected via public recycling sites & kerbside collections: These are sorted, compressed, baled and bought by Manx scrap metal merchants who make regular shipments to recycling facilities in the North West of England.

Waste electronic and electrical equipment – collected via Civic Amenity Sites: Televisions, computers, computer screens & fridges are shipped off-Island to Viridor, a UK-based company. They’re then taken to St Helens or Perth for recycling. Between 90-99% of all recovered materials are recycled into new products.

Lamps and bulbs and fluorescent tubes – collected via Civic Amenity Sites: These are shipped off-Island to Mercury Lamp Recycling, based in Manchester, North West England. All component materials (e.g. mercury vapour, glass & plastics) are recovered and recycled into new products.

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