Reach for Zero: How plastic solutions are helping mould the NI economy by saving tonnes from landfill - Belfast Live

2022-04-21 12:01:50 By : Ms. Joan Yang

Companies and charities are working to benefit us and the environment

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For better or worse plastic now plays a huge part in all our lives.

But as mountains of the stuff gather in our recycling centres, tonnes of discarded plastics drown our seas and microplastics are even being found in our blood - it has never been more vital we get to grips with the situation for the sake of the environment.

But it’s not all doom and gloom as we reach for zero.

Read more:Campaign 'Reach For Zero' will help you make changes to tackle climate crisis

Companies like Bryson Recycling are working hard to ensure the plastic (paper and glass) that goes into your recycling bins finds its way to others that will reuse it - and the closer to home the better says their director Eric Randall.

We visited their Mallusk material recovery facility to see how people and robot power make sure no opportunity is missed to give a plastic bottle, juice box or milk carton a second life.

The facility sorts between 80-120 tonnes of recyclables every day but on a busy week can gather up to 200 tonnes from homes across Northern Ireland.

And Mr Randall says the triple stacks used in some councils have been a gamechanger for recycling rates in those areas.

He told us around 5% of NI waste was recycled when they started but “we are at about 50% at this point”.

“I think we should be getting 65% if we do the right thing,” he added.

“To me it’s not just about the quantity of what we recycle - it’s about what happens to it, where it goes and how we get the best from this problem of waste and actually turn it into a benefit.

“Our vehicles have different compartments where we are collecting the stuff separately which means the quality of that material is maintained.”

Bryson Recycling kerbside driver Julie Martin agrees.

She told us: “You do find people are much more specific with what they are recycling.”

Of the material Bryson collects, Eric says “80% is actually recycled in Northern Ireland”.

“The plastic gets turned into drainage piping and so on in Lurgan and the glass goes to Encirc in Fermanagh where it is turned back into glass bottles again. The paper gets turned back into egg boxes and cup holders [by .

“To me it’s that concept of let’s keep the stuff local - let’s not export it.

“That will create jobs here so there are multiple benefits of improving the environment by what we are doing.

“We’re getting there,” he added.

“The more we keep the resources that we have in circulation rather than this linear process of we mine stuff, we use it, then we send it to landfill - that’s very outdated.

“Nature is very good at making sure resources are used circularly and any waste comes back as a product somewhere else.

“We need to be mimicking that in the way we operate.

“We should be really looking to try and look towards re-use and cutting down the amount of single use items.”

As well as recycling what we do use well, there are a few other things we can do to help reduce what we’re throwing away.

From the rising tide of refill shops that allow you to restock your larder using containers you already have to firms like TerraCycle that collect waste our councils don’t to make money for charity, the options are mounting.

TerraCycle told us it can recycle everything from sweet and confectionary wrappers to biscuit wrappers, personal, beauty care packaging and more into plastic pellets that can then be used to create other items like outdoor furniture, fence posts, lumber and construction materials.

Anyone can sign up and what you gather earns pounds for your chosen charity.

A spokesperson told us: “Historically council systems have only accepted waste to be recycled that has value, such as paper, cardboard, aluminium cans, plastic bottles etc.

“The value of the recycled material from these items was more than the recycling process would cost, so councils could make money from it.

“TerraCycle wanted to address this by facilitating the recycling of the everyday waste that isn’t widely collected, such as packaging with a mix of complex materials like pens, toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, pet food packaging and more.”

Kicks Count NI has saved tonnes of plastic from landfill and raised over £12,300 by hosting a TerraCycle drop-off at a upcycled phone box in Tamlaght O’Crilly that also doubles as a community noticeboard, plant swap and book exchange.

Organiser Vicky Seviour-Crockett told us: "It's a great network."

Click here for more information.

Read more:Councils want producers to pay for NI plastic problem

Read more:Meal planning could save £700 a year and reduce food waste

Follow us in the coming weeks as we set out solutions to the climate crisis through our Reach For Zero campaign on the website here or on Twitter @BelfastLive, Facebook @BelfastLiveOnline, Instagram @belfastlive and TikTok @belfastlive.

If you have a story you'd like to share please contact me at shauna.corr@reachplc.com or @ShaunaReports