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New scheme to recycle plastic waste at South Walney

Monday 11th September 2017

Rigid plastic litter at South Walney Nature Reserve can now be recycledRigid plastic litter at South Walney Nature Reserve can now be recycled

All the rigid plastic litter collected at beach cleans at South Walney Nature Reserve this autumn can now be recycled and certain plastics will help make the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25% recycled beach plastic.

An estimated eight million metric tonnes of plastic such as plastic bottles, food wrappers, bags, cotton buds and fishing nets is floating in our oceans. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy and on the current track, there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is helping to tackle this growing problem at a local level by running regular beach cleans. Thanks to an innovative project, the waste collected from beaches at South Walney Nature Reserve is now being given a second life as part of the world’s first run of recyclable shampoo bottles made from up to 25% recycled beach plastic.

On a typical beach clean at South Walney, volunteers collect an average of 80kg of waste which is enough to fill eight black bin liners. Common items include bits of boats and old hard hats, buckets and spades, Barbie dolls and toy dinosaurs, right down to the tiny plastic middles of cotton buds. Degradation of the marine plastics caused by the sun, saltwater and sand traditionally meant that whilst the plastics were being removed from local beaches, the material couldn’t be recycled and so was ultimately ending up in landfill or incineration.

Thanks to an innovative collaboration between recycling experts TerraCycle, SUEZ and P&G, the collected beach plastics can now be recycled. Cumbria Wildlife Trust sends the collected rigid plastic waste to TerraCycle who pays the shipping costs. All the HDPE plastic is used to make new Head & Shoulders recyclable shampoo bottles made from up to 25% recycled beach plastic. The bottles will initially be available at retail in France but it is hoped that this will be extended to include other European countries including the UK. All other rigid plastics collected through the clean-ups such as PET, LDPE, PP and PS are recycled with TerraCycle’s existing waste streams and will ultimately be given a second life as the likes of benches or waste bins.

Sarah Dalrymple, Warden at South Walney Nature Reserve said: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with TerraCycle’s Beach Plastics Recycling Programme. This means that a huge amount of the litter collected on South Walney’s beaches will now be recycled, rather than going into landfill. This autumn we are running seven beach cleans at South Walney Nature Reserve, in conjunction with TerraCycle. We estimate we’ll clear up around 560kg or half a ton of beach litter (56 bin liners full) in just a few months!”

Tom Szaky, TerraCycle CEO and Founder added: “We hope that the launch of Head & Shoulders new recyclable shampoo bottles made from up to 25% recycled beach plastic will not only help to clean up plastic on beaches but also inspire consumers to play their part and recycle their shampoo bottles and prevent more waste landing on beaches. The production of this innovative new recycled shampoo bottle would not be possible without the great work and support of the volunteers of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust and other organisations like them who do such an important job in cleaning up the beaches.”

The next beach clean at South Walney Nature Reserve is on Sunday 17 September. Meet at 11.00am at the entrance to South Walney Nature Reserve. Please book in advance (all are welcome to join in) on 01539 816300 / mail@cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk. Each beach clean lasts about an hour and a half and participants are advised to wrap up warm and wear sensible footwear.