The days of dumping rubbish in landfill are over, with more and more innovative ways of reusing and
recycling being tested. Reporter Claire French finds out more about what one company is doing locally
Milk cartons and read copies of The News are among the thousands of items passing through Veolia’s recycling plant in Portsmouth every day.
As I watched employees sifting through the things we throw in our recycling bins each week, front page stories written by colleagues passed by on a conveyor belt.
Items once used to contain baked beans, fizzy drinks and birthday cakes whizz by as I listened to how items are collected by dustbin men going around Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham and Havant and delivered to Veolia’s energy recovery and recycling centre in Quartremaine Road, Hilsea.
Plastic bottles, tin cans, paper and card are searched, sorted, sifted after being delivered by rubbish trucks.
Conveyor belts of items go up and down and around the plant floor before being collected and moved on to pastures new.
Senior materials recovery facilities manager, Darren Carling, has worked for Veolia for the past 16 years.
‘Recycling has evolved massively over the years, in terms of the materials that can now be recycled, people’s behaviour, the technology, and what people consume.
‘It used to be all about newspapers but that is going down.
‘The worst thing for us is all the Amazon packaging over Christmas.
‘There is now so much packaging because of online shopping.
‘If you can imagine a piece and each segment of the pie when we started was a certain percentage, that has changed in terms of the type of household we serve, the area and number of households have changed.
‘Paper is now in decline. Paper used to lead recycling and it was in high demand. Now we are dealing with other materials.
‘Now all of those materials are as important as each other.’
Asked what message he would send to readers who put recyclable materials like paper and plastics into their general household rubbish, he said: ‘Don’t do it. Don’t put everything in one bag.
‘Once recyclable materials go in there, they can’t be removed.
‘If everything were to be recycled, it would reduce how much waste goes to landfill even more.
‘It is down to everyone in the community to recycle.’
Asked what happens to the materials recovered at the centre, he explained: ‘They go to the relevant places – paper to the paper mills, cardboard goes to the cardboard mills.
‘Something that came here as a can be turned into something else, not just a can.
‘Plastic can be turned into most things – from fleece jumpers to park benches.
‘People really should increase their recycling if they are not already.’
It starts off as rubbish and ends up as power in our homes
How much do you know about what your rubbish does after it’s picked up by the dustbin men?
It could be warming your electric heater this winter or lighting your home.
Household waste collected from properties around the city amasses at a plant in Portsmouth and is used to produce electricity for homes and businesses across the country.
Veolia’s energy recovery and recycling centre in Quartremaine Road contributes to the company’s overall production of energy across the country – enough for 53,000 homes.
Creating energy from some of the materials that can’t be recycled at the plant means under 10 per cent of the rubbish we throw away now goes to landfill.
As I stood in a gallery and watched rubbish being tipped into a bunker by dumpsters underneath, I was overcome by the stench of the rotting trash.
Andy Whale, who has been maintenance manager at the site for two years, said it’s easy to get used to the smell when you work with it in the environment.
‘Monday morning is when it is worse because we have very few trucks coming in on a Saturday,’ he said. First thing Monday is when they start coming in properly.
‘There is lots of rubbish at the bottom decomposing until we put fresh waste on.’
Once the rubbish is in the bunker, it is moved down and through the plant, creating steam and heat as it goes, which generate the power
This is sold on to the National Grid.
What gets recycled
LOCAL authorities decide what materials can be recycled, depending on the facilities in their area.
In Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham and Havant, aerosols, food and drinks cans, plastic bottles without lids, card and paper can be recycled. Currently, glass is not accepted for recycling because of the dangers related to it.
Shredded paper also cannot be recycled because it jams machines in the recycling plant.
Plastic bags, tubs and pots are not recycled because of there is no established market or desire currently for the materials.
Other items that should not be put in recycling collections include plastic sacks, other plastics, cartons, polystyrene textiles and foil.
Portsmouth City Council has been running a competition to reward people recycling in the correct way by paying out cash prizes every month.
Funded by the government, the competition is aimed at encouraging people in Portsmouth to recycle more. In the future, it is hoped this will save the council money as well as helping the environment by cutting down on the amount of waste sent to landfill.
To register, sign up online at bigreycle.portsmouth.gov.uk or by calling (023) 9243 7843.
To read The News’ view on this click here.