As Guernsey moves forward with its aims of recycling as much of our waste as possible, it's been decided that polystyrene will no longer be collected separately to other rubbish.
The new waste strategy is seen by those behind it as a success, with many people now recycling more through the kerbside collections of food and glass as well as the clear and blue bags.
But, while the main bring bank sites remain open for recycling too, any polystyrene left will not be recycled until "a more economic route can be found".
That move will save the island £45,000 a year as recycling the white stuff is expensive. In a statement, Guernsey Waste said "it previously cost more than £3,000 per tonne to recycle. That is because although it is a type of plastic, expanded polystyrene is made up of around 99% air. This is what makes it such lightweight packaging, but also means it has to be compressed prior to export, to reduce transport costs. Most of the cost was for this on-island processing."
Last year, 14.5 tonnes of polystyrene were recycled, at a cost of more than £47,000, but because the island was still relying on landfill for the bulk of its waste then, there was a space saving initiative to try and keep Mont Cuet open for as long as possible.
As the island's general 'black bag' waste is now sent off-island for energy recovery in Sweden, preserving landfill space is not as important and it will be much cheaper to put polystyrene in with general rubbish from households and businesses to be exported, therefore saving around £45,000 a year.
Guernsey Waste Operations Manager Sarah Robinson said: “Although the tonnages we have been recycling are very low compared to other materials, expanded polystyrene occupies a lot of space, and does not pack down easily. That presents a challenge for recycling, because you have to compact it before shipping, otherwise you would transporting hundreds of containers that are pretty much full of air.
“The compacting process was time-consuming and costly, but justified when the priority was to extend the life of Mont Cuet. Now we are no longer relying on landfill, and are able to recover energy from polystyrene, instead of just disposing of it. We can therefore no longer justify the high cost.
“Obviously we are keen to maximise recycling, so it is not a decision that we took lightly.However we are mindful of costs at all times, and this is an obvious and sensible saving. Wewill keep it under review, and if we can find a more economic route we will consider it.”
Because the light but bulky material can be awkward to dispose of in black bags for kerbside collection, drop-off points for polystyrene will stay open. They are at Waitrose on the Rohais and at the new Household Waste & Recycling Centre at Longue Hougue.
Pictured: Food waste recycling bags are being topped up from this week.
Meanwhile, every house in the island will receive a new supply of food waste caddy liners over the next two weeks.
The new rolls, which are being delivered by Guernsey Post, will also include a voucher for when households need to top up again. They can then be redeemed from local shops.
Initially every household was given a supply of 150 bags. Guernsey Waste Recycling Officer, Tina Norman-Ross, said they've proven very popular.
“We had seen evidence from elsewhere that participation in food waste collections increased significantly if you provide caddy liners. It basically just means household do not have to continually wash out their caddies, to avoid having smelly remnants left in the bottom. That does make a big difference, plus it also makes the collection process a loteasier, as they are not having to empty out lots of loose material,” she said.
“So we were expecting the caddy liners would be well used, but until we knew for sure we could not confirm what the future arrangements have been. However we now know from experience that practically everyone is using them with their caddies, and we think that has been big part of the phenomenal success of food waste collections.”
“We are really grateful once again to the retailers for getting involved. For the last few years they have been stocking our kerbside recycling bags, so it made sense to replicate that with the caddy liners. That makes it really convenient for everyone, any time they need to topup.”
In a survey of more than 1,000 homes in Castel and St Peter Port last November/December, nearly 90% were using the food waste collections. More than 50 tonnes is now being collected from households each week.
Separately collected food waste is pre-processed at the new transfer station at Longue Hougue, before being loaded into tankers and sent to a plant in southern England. It is used there to generate electricity and a compost material.
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