From the soles of your shoes to the comb you use on your hair, plastic has become an unavoidable part of modern life. But now that we know the damage it can wreak on wildlife, momentum is growing in the effort to re-use and recycle more plastic — and to clear up the toxic trash littering our beaches and countryside.
On the weekend of May 11-13, thousands of people across the UK will come together to clear their community spaces of litter as part of the Great Plastic Pick Up .
So, what will actually happen to the plastic picked up over that weekend?
Well, once your Pick Up is over, you’ll be encouraged to register the number of bags you collected with greatplasticpickup.org — then check the website for details of how to get it to your local authority’s recycling facility.
Each local authority works with various recycling plants around the country, where your plastic will be sorted, shredded, washed and melted down into pellets. These pellets are then sold on to manufacturers to use as part of their plastic production.
Richard McIlwain, deputy chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, explains: ‘The more we can recycle, the more cost-effective this process will become, reducing our dependency on the oil needed to produce virgin [newly made] plastic and ultimately limiting the amount of plastic washing around in our oceans.’
Recycled plastic has always been far more expensive to use than new virgin plastic. Some types are so hard to re-use they have traditionally been considered impossible to recycle. But now, forward-thinking companies are coming up with innovative ways to put waste plastic to good use. Here, we reveal all the ways they’re creating a fresh new life for the trash you’ll find on the Mail’s Great Plastic Pick Up . . .
KAYAKS MADE FROM FISHING NETS
In January this year, the first kayak made from recycled fishing nets came off the production line.
It was created by amateur diver Rob Thompson, who was desperate to find a use for all the abandoned nets, crab pots and fisherman’s rope he came across while exploring underwater.
An estimated 600,000 tons of damaged or dumped plastic netting has built up in the oceans, where it traps and strangles sea life.
He dreamed up a plan to turn the nets into kayaks, which beach-cleaning crews could then use to access remote stretches of coastline — and clear them of even more toxic plastic trash.
He tracked down a recycling plant in Denmark that would accept old nets and convert them into recycled plastic pellets.
Then, working with a kayak company called Palm Equipment, based near Bristol, he found a way to turn the pellets made from nets into a kayak by mixing the pellets with recycled marine plastic collected from beach clear-ups.
Now Rob has teamed up with Keep Britain Tidy, organising volunteer divers and beach-cleaning groups from around the UK to gather fishing nets and ship them off to Denmark in bulk, rather than seeing them dumped in landfill.
‘The first batch has produced 150kg of recycled plastic pellets, which is enough for six kayaks,’ says Rob.
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