DCW Polymers

The damage plastic does to the environment and the importance of plastic recycling

Plastic pollution has been at the forefront of our minds for years now. It’s an issue that’s rife in every country but it’s emerged recently that Britain is the second biggest per capita producer of plastic waste in the world (source: The Guardian). The tide needs to turn and a big push on plastic recycling in the UK could help save our planet. You may already be aware of DCW Polymers, a leading plastics recycling and reprocessing plant in Exeter, Devon. We collect waste plastic, turn it back into high-quality plastic granules and sell it back into the manufacturing industry. Materials that end up at DCW Polymers never go to landfill so if you are on the hunt for ‘plastic recycling near me’, do bear us in mind. In this blog, we explore just some of the reasons why we need to do more to recycle plastic and what the future for this waste stream currently looks like…

How does plastic harm the environment?

Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about? Why is plastic so harmful to the environment and what’s the worst that can happen if we don’t reduce the amount of plastic waste we generate?

It all begins with the sheer amount of plastic waste that is produced. Since polypropylene was invented in 1951, plastic has been widely used throughout the manufacturing industry. Popular due to its resistance to chemicals, high flexibility, durability and low cost, polypropylene is ideal for a variety of packaging and products. As a result of its popularity, the UK generates an incredible 2.2 million metric tons of plastic packaging waste each year (source: Statista). So, where does all of that plastic waste go? After China introduced a ban on foreign waste in 2018, Malaysia has become the UK’s main plastic waste export destination. The practice of shipping plastic waste abroad brings with it a host of problems for the environment.

Dr. Kevin Bridgen, Senior Scientist from Greenpeace Research Laboratories, said: “When plastics are exported from one country to another, they can bring with them a wide range of hazardous chemicals. Improper storage and treatment can later release these chemicals into the local environment and burning can even generate new hazardous chemicals” (source: Greenpeace).

Plastic waste not only has a detrimental effect on the earth’s atmosphere, it has a serious impact on marine life too. You’re probably familiar with the harrowing images of underwater creatures eating or getting trapped in plastic. It’s something the production team of Blue Planet II experienced first-hand back in 2018. “For years, we thought that the oceans were so vast that nothing we could do could have an effect upon them. But now we know that was wrong” said David Attenborough in the last episode of the award-winning series.

An incredible 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year where it can be lethal (source: YouTube). Creatures such as fish, sea turtles and whales can become entangled in plastic waste or ingest it which can cause suffocation, starvation and drowning. Research has shown that half of sea turtles worldwide have ingested plastic and the waste kills up to a million seabirds each year (source: PEW).

You may wonder how plastic waste ends up in the ocean when you don’t directly put it there. When you throw something into your general waste bin, it begins its journey to a landfill site. With plastic being such a light wight material, it can easily be blown away and end up down the drain or in a river where it will eventually be dumped in the ocean. Littering is another culprit. Drop a plastic bag or wrapper on the street and rainwater will wash it away, into the drain and you guessed it, into the ocean (source: WWF).

Plastic is extremely hard to break down as it doesn’t biodegrade like other materials. The organisms that break down organic materials such as food and garden waste have evolved to attack certain types of bonds that are common in nature. The bonds in polypropylene are so complex that organisms simply don’t recognise this material (source: LiveScience). Plastic will decompose eventually, but it can take up to 1,000 years for it to decompose at landfill sites with plastic bottles alone taking 450 years or more (source: Daily Sabah).

So, what can we do to stop the damage plastic waste causes?

The future of plastic recycling

There’s a strong appetite in the UK for change when it comes to plastic pollution. As mentioned, Malaysia is the UK’s main plastic waste export destination but a recent survey showed that 85% of respondents believed that the UK should deal with its own plastic waste rather than shipping it abroad (source: Statista). It is also hoped that the UK Government will take some responsibility for turning the tide on plastic waste. In November 2020, Lord Goldsmith revealed that Britain will throw its weight behind a new global agreement which will seek to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. As the Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Lord Goldsmith has said that a UN treaty on plastics is needed similar to the Paris agreement on the climate crisis (source: The Guardian). It’s a promising step in the right direction and we hope that it will lead to an eventual end to plastic pollution.

We adopt a circular approach to plastic waste at DCW Polymers. As the only plastics recycling plant south of Bridgewater, we provide a plastic waste recycling service to South West businesses, collecting a variety of waste products. From plastic pallets to wheelie bins, fuel tanks to kayaks, we recycle bulky plastics at our specialist plant in Exeter. Our state-of-the-art machinery is capable of processing in excess of 100 tonnes of plastic a week. It turns waste plastic back into high quality plastic granules which go back into the manufacturing process and reduce the need for virgin plastic products to be manufactured.

We’re always looking at ways in which we can encourage businesses and individuals to recycle their plastic waste. Recently, we launched our Recycle & Raise appeal which asks the public to donate plastic tubs, such as the confectionary tubs many households have at Christmas, for recycling to raise funds for Dartmoor Zoo and mental health charity, Mind. Last year, the campaign raised over £1,200 for Dartmoor Zoo after recycling over 15,000 confectionary tubs and selling the plastic granules back into the manufacturing industry. We hope to smash that record this year. Click here to find out more about this year’s campaign and where you can donate your plastic tubs.

If you’d like to know more about how we manage and recycle plastics at DCW Polymers, click here or call 01392 535353.

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Recycle & Raise campaign for 2020 is launched!

DCW Polymers launches our Recycle & Raise campaign for 2020!

Last years’ Recycle & Raise campaign was hugely successful, we recycled over 15,000 tubs and reached over 250,000 people online! Having raised over £1,200 for Dartmoor Zoo last year, we have high hopes that this year will be even bigger and better!

While it has been a difficult decision as there are so many worthy charities that need support, our chosen charities for this year are Dartmoor Zoological Park and Mind – a mental health charity.

This year we can Recycle & Raise with even more materials, so please start washing and saving your containers for us!

What can we Recycle this year?

  • Confectionery tubs
  • Ice cream tubs
  • Cracker tubs
  • Milk bottle tops
  • Takeaway containers

Look for the number 5 or PP symbol on the container!

All materials donated to Recycle & Raise will be sent to our plastic reprocessing centre in Exeter, where we will shred the plastics and sell on to manufacturers in the UK, to use in place of virgin polymers. All profits raised will be donated to our two chosen charities, Dartmoor Zoo and Mind.

Shredded plastic containers
This is what the containers look like when they have been through the shredder!
Example of confectionery tubs that we can we recycle for the Recycle & Raise campaign
Example of confectionery tubs that we can we recycle for the Recycle & Raise campaign

Recycle & Raise Drop Off Locations

We are looking for more partners for this years’ Recycle & Raise campaign to collect and store containers on our behalf. If you are willing to support us and collect on our behalf, please contact Emily Almond by emailing [email protected] to receive the marketing pack and be included on our list!

You can find your local drop-off point on our interactive map below! This will be updated as more collection partners join us.

Recycle & Raise 2020 Charities

Dartmoor Zoological Park

Dartmoor Zoological Park is a unique zoo set in 33 acres of beautiful parkland on the outskirts of Plymouth. The Zoo’s CEO Benjamin Mee wrote a book about buying the zoo called We Bought A Zoo, which was later became the subject of a major Hollywood film starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johannson! The Zoo registered as a charity in 2014 which has strengthened it’s future and opened up new and exciting opportunities. DCW Polymers has worked closely with Dartmoor Zoo since our MD became a trustee of the charity, and we partnered with them for our 2019 Recycle & Raise campaign! With the Covid-19 restrictions affecting visitor numbers this year, Dartmoor Zoo need our help!


Mind is a mental health charity who provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. Covid-19 restrictions have affected everyone in different ways this year,  it’s still very uncertain times which is why it is so important to shine the light on mental health and provide support to those who may be struggling.

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Plastic recyclers from around the world: How innovators are dealing with plastic pollution

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Plastic pollution is a huge problem which is seriously damaging the planet and in particular, our marine landscape. Plastic has been found in more than 60% of all seabirds and in 100% of all sea turtle species as they mistake plastic for food (source: Ocean Conservancy). This is something that’s close to our hearts at DCW Polymers. We make it our mission to recycle as much of the South West’s plastic waste as we can, processing in excess of 100 tonnes of plastic a week. Thankfully, business leaders from around the world are starting to tackle the plastic problem too, becoming plastic recyclers that aim to inspire others to take action. Here, we round up the projects and businesses tackling plastic waste that stood out to us:

Surf’s up for wooden body board initiative

Plastic Free North Devon (PFND), a charity which aims to reduce the impact of plastic pollution along the North Devon coast and beyond, has started renting out wooden body boards to beach goers. After more than 500 polystyrene boards were collected from Croyde beach in 2019, PFND was keen to launch an initiative which will help combat the amount of polystyrene left on the coastline. The cheap polystyrene body boards can break down easily after a few waves have been ridden, but the sustainable wooden boards are expected to last for decades.

The charity was concerned that polystyrene body boards were becoming a single-use item with Keep Britain Tidy estimating that more than 14,500 plastic boards would be sent to landfill this summer. It’s not just the disposal of these boards that’s a problem. It’s how they get to the UK too. According to PFND, the average body board is manufactured in China and travels over 5,000 miles just to be used a couple of times before it breaks down and gets sent to landfill. About 99% of all plastic comes from fossil fuels which are refined, manufactured and transported. Every stage of this process is damaging to the environment (source: PFND). By renting out wooden body boards, the charity hopes to change people’s attitudes towards using cheap polystyrene boards.

PFND member Andy Clee told BBC Spotlight: “We really have got to start thinking long term about the impact that our lifestyles and choices are having and make some serious changes. It’s fantastic to think that something that our grandparents’ generation enjoyed can still be enjoyed by their grandchildren” (source: BBC News).

Next time you’re enjoying the North Devon coastline, head to Saunton Surf Hire where you can rent a wooden body board. You’ll also be helping the community as the profits will be split between local charities.

Don’t throw your water bottle away. Eat it!  

Now this is seriously cool. In 2013, London-based Skipping Rocks Lab developed an edible and biodegradable alternative to plastic in order to reduce the amount of plastic waste the human race creates. Named Ooho, the flexible packaging is made from Notpla, a material which combines seaweed and plants. As the world’s first entirely edible water “bottle”, Ooho can hold water, flavoured drinks and even cocktails, enabling Skipping Rocks Lab to launch its product at sporting events and festivals. The “bottles” look like squidgy orbs and you simply eat it whole, leaving you with absolutely nothing to throw away. The team have also developed sachets for condiments which can be composted with the rest of your food waste (source: Notpla).

Skipping Rocks Lab continue to look into how else Ooho can be used to combat plastic pollution but in the meantime, consumers can try it for themselves at Selfridges’ London store. If you are an organiser of a sporting event, festival or an owner of a take-away restaurant, you can order Oohos to ensure you offer a sustainable alternative to plastic packaging. Last year, over 30,000 Oohos were handed out to runners who were participating in the London Marathon.

You really need to see it to believe it. Click here to watch a quick YouTube video which gives a demonstration of Oohos.

A bag that animals CAN eat

Unfortunately, plastic packaging is regularly consumed by animals who mistake the material for food. Indian company EnviGreen has completely turned this concept on its head by developing a biodegradable storage bag that can actually become food for animals. EnviGreen’s products are made from natural starch, vegetable oil derivatives and vegetable waste which are 100% biodegradable. The bags dissolve in hot water or you can even eat it if you really want to! If animals come across any non-degraded EnviGreen bags, they can eat them with no adverse effects (source: One Green Planet).

Claiming to be the first company to develop a biodegradable alternative to plastic packaging in India, EnviGreen’s products include carrier bags, rubbish bags, oil and grease sachets, bin liners, packaging films, aprons, wrapping covers and laundry bags (source: EnviGreen). Let’s hope that more supermarkets across the world embrace products such as EnviGreen’s in a bid to go plastic-free.

We contribute to developing a plywood alternative

The recycled plastics that we process at our plastics reprocessing plant, DCW Polymers, contribute to the making of Storm Board, a plywood alternative. The UK imports about 1.4 million m3 of plywood every year from across the globe. Many of these boards are used temporarily for applications such as site hoardings and then head straight to landfill. Furthermore, plywood is often coated with paint, varnish or wood preservative thus adding to the cost and becoming unsustainable.

Storm Board turns waste plastic into a weatherproof and 100% recycled plastic alternative. As well as being the authorised distribution partner for Storm Board across Devon and Cornwall, DCW Polymers also contributes to the making of the product. We can process in excess of 100 tonnes of plastic per week from South West businesses. Waste plastic gets turned into plastic granules which go back into the manufacturing process and contribute to the making of products such as Storm Board.

DCW Polymers offers a plastic recycling service, collecting items from businesses such as plastic bins, playground equipment, garden furniture, plastic pallet crates and even larger items such as kayaks and fuel tanks. If you’d like to know more about how we manage and recycle plastics at DCW Polymers, click here or call 01392 535353.

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Tackling Plastic Pollution in Manufacturing

Tackling the plastic pollution problem
Tackling the plastic pollution problem

There is a groundswell of opinion that says we should all be worried about where unwanted plastic ends up and the damage that it can do if it is not managed correctly. For those of us in an industry which works with plastic every day, it is therefore imperative that we try to act positively to improve the use and disposal of plastics.

Two Devon based companies have joined forces to try and do their bit to tackle this problem.

Teignmouth-based Product Design Consultancy, Hillside Design Ltd (HPDL) develop products from the first sketch concept all the way through to manufacture for a plethora of clients including large multi-national companies and individual private inventors, Director Chris Howsam and his team responsibly source all materials they specify and they ensure those materials meet the highest standards of quality.

Chris says, “It has always been a challenge to specify high quality, second use plastics because of their limited availability and the perceived risks from contamination. Many plastic users such as injection moulding companies will not risk damage to an expensive moulding press and this is a hurdle to specifying second use plastics instead of virgin plastic stock”.

The good news for Hillside is that now help is at hand thanks to Devon Contract Waste (DCW) who have invested heavily in acquiring a plastics reprocessing business, now operating as DCW Polymers, in Wrangaton. The plant is equipped with a range of shredders and granulators, turning waste plastics back into top quality granulated plastics, which go back into the manufacturing process and reduce the need for virgin plastic in the manufacturing system. DCW Polymers have recently purchased a brand new shredder and granulation line which has significantly increased their capacity, and the plant is now capable of processing over 50 tonnes of quality recycled plastics per week. Later this year the whole operation is due to relocate to DCW’s new premises in Marsh Barton, Exeter.

Simon Almond, MD of DCW Polymers commented “We were excited to acquire the plastics recycling business in 2019, and with additional investment and support we see that this will be a major part of DCW Polymers business overall. As a nation, we need to do more to proactively encourage the recycling of plastics, and we hope that we can play our part in this. We want to encourage the take up of recycled plastics by more UK manufacturers, and by working alongside Chris and the team at HPDL we hope that we can encourage more product designers and manufacturers to replace virgin polymers with high quality recycled plastics”.

Chris added, “I’m delighted about having this facility, especially as it sits quite literally on our doorstep here in Devon. HPDL and our supply partners are very conscious of the part we play in tackling the environmental costs of launching new products and now in collaboration with DCW Polymers we can all contribute more positively to reducing the burden of unwanted plastic in Devon.”

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Recycle & Raise

October 2019 saw DCW Polymers launch an exciting recycling scheme that aimed to raise consumer awareness regarding the ease of recycling confectionery tubs, thus preventing volumes of waste plastics from ending up in landfill after the Christmas period. We then donated all the profits from the onward sale of that material to Dartmoor Zoo – a charity that DCW Polymers have proudly sponsored for several years.

We provided drop off facilities at all of our DCW Polymers sites and enlisted the help of over 85 local businesses who volunteered to store the tubs for us; including LED Leisure Centres, Tesco, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital along with many schools and other businesses across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset! We are extremely grateful for the incredible support we received from the general public and the supporting partners for making it such a roaring success.

With great interest, the story was covered by the Devon Live, and Kingsbridge & Salcombe Gazette had a segment aired on BBC Spotlight, as well as a broadcast on Radio Exe – Exeter’s most popular local radio station.

At the final count, the number of tubs we collected was 12,554 which equated to 1,745kg of plastic material, which we were thankfully able to turn into hundreds of pounds to help towards the upkeep of Dartmoor Zoo.

A massive thank you to the thousands of people who contributed towards this endeavour, we hope you will join us later in the year when we plan to organise this event again and if possible, to raise even more money for charity.

So keep your eyes peeled for updates and save those tubs if they are marked with a PP or HDPE triangle!

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Specialist Plastics Recycling firm invests to help the SW fight war on plastics

As the fight against plastic pollution gains more momentum, a South West business has invested £280,000 to bring a state-of-the-art plastic processing machine to the region and help Devon and Cornwall businesses recycle more.

DCW Polymers has installed the next generation plastic recycling machine at its plastics recycling and reprocessing plant in Wrangaton.

The new machinery is capable of processing in excess of 100 tonnes of plastic a week. Prior to the arrival of the new shredding and granulating technology, plastics in the South West, especially bulky plastics, from both commercial and domestic sources had often ended up in landfill as it wasn’t economically viable to separate and transport it to processing sites outside the region mainly due to the transport costs.

DCW Polymers is the only specialist plastics recycling and reprocessing plant south of Bridgwater. This new plastic processing technology can recycle specialist plastics as well as common industrial packaging, turning waste plastics back into plastic granules, which go back into the manufacturing process and reduce the need for virgin plastic products to be manufactured.

DCW Polymers can collect items from both businesses and wider communities providing a processing service for bulky plastics such as plastic bins, playground equipment, garden furniture, plastic pallet crates and even larger items such as kayaks and fuel tanks.

With a fleet of 53 modern vehicles, DCW Polymers offers an efficient collection service for all types of plastics across the South West.

DCW Polymers’ Managing Director, Simon Almond, said: “We’re all aware there’s a critical plastic pollution problem and will likely have heard the harrowing statistic that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Our new plastic processing technology in Wrangaton brings the capability to the region to advance the fight and help stem the plastic problem by recycling more.

“At DCW Polymers our mission is to recycle as much waste as possible, encouraging South West businesses to adopt a sustainable approach to waste management and supporting DCW Polymers’ quest to develop a truly circular economy.  This latest technology can actively lower the amounts of recyclable material ending up in landfill and contribute towards a brighter, more sustainable future for generations to come.  With this new machine we’re able to offer South West businesses and communities even more choice when it comes to what they can recycle.”

For more information about DCW Polymers’ services, visit www.dcwpolymers.co.uk or call 01392 535 353.

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