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What more can the South West be doing to create a circular economy this Plastic Free July?

With Plastic Free July well underway, DCW Polymers Managing Director Simon Almond reveals why he thinks a circular economy is so important in the fight against plastic waste, and the steps DCW Polymers is taking as one of the South West’s leading plastics and recycling processing plant…

Plastic Free July is a fantastic awareness campaign which gets everyone thinking about how they can eliminate single-use plastic from their day-to-day lives, or at least cut down on the amount they send to landfill.

This global movement is an annual event and every year we are faced with even more devastating plastic waste facts. Currently, nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced each year with 1 million marine animals dying due to plastic pollution (source: Seed Scientific). Plastic Free July aims to make an impact by encouraging households, schools and workplaces to think about what sustainable swaps can be made to eliminate single use plastic, and it works! According to the leaders of the campaign, participants reduce their household waste and recycling by 21kg per person and contribute to a total saving of 940 million kg of plastic waste each year (source: Plastic Free July). It’s great to see that the campaign can make such an impact, and really heartens me, as personally I am invested in fighting back against plastic pollution.

I’ve always been passionate about creating a circular economy and have never wanted anything to go to waste, even from a young age. I used to rescue unwanted bikes from skips so that I could repair them and sell them on to my school friends! I adopted a similar approach when I founded DCW Polymers. We strive to help our customers become Zero to Landfill companies but sometimes, this is challenging due to the specialist waste some businesses may produce. When situations like this occur, we work with customers to find an alternative solution to ensure we keep those materials away from landfill and give them a new lease of life.

Plastic has often been considered as hard to recycle. Many plastic products are made out of several different materials, including chemicals, making it difficult for local authorities, for example, to recycle as the materials need to be separated. Globally 91% of plastic is not recycled and 75% of all plastic produced becomes waste (source: Seed Scientific). We want to change this at DCW Polymers and that is why we have researched and invested in processes which turn plastic waste into new products.

Waste one-minute, stylish outdoor furniture the next

We’ve invested in a new machine at our specialist plastics recycling centre, DCW Polymers in Exeter, which melts bulky plastic waste down and moulds it into large posts and planks. After weeks of trialling this new process and ironing out the kinks, we launched our outdoor furniture range in May 2021. Plastic waste from South West businesses processed by DCW Polymers is now being made into a range of picnic benches, tables, chairs, fence posts and decking for individuals to buy for their household or business. It’s an excellent sustainable alternative to timber as the plastic products are maintenance free, will not rot, splinter or corrode and will not require painting or creosoting. Bulky plastic waste such as pallets, kayaks, buckets, fuel tanks and wheelie bins make ideal sources of plastic for this type of process. You can find out more here.

Striving for a circular economy

In addition to being an authorised distributor of Storm Board product, we also provide the material that goes into the making of this weatherproof plywood alternative. What material is that? You guessed it. Waste plastic! This is the definition of a circular economy. Taking waste plastic and recycling it back into the manufacturing process reduces the need for virgin plastic products to be made and in turn, reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

We also run our own charity fundraising campaign every year which keeps plastics away from landfill. We’re all very familiar with the plastic confectionary tubs that feature as part of our Christmas celebrations every year, but did you know many of these end up in landfill? We launched Recycle & Raise in an attempt to put hundreds of these tubs to good use. Every year, we collect these empty plastic tubs from across the South West and shred them into plastic granules. This material then gets sold back into the manufacturing industry and we donate the funds to charity! This year, the campaign raised an incredible £4,096.60 for Dartmoor Zoo and Mind and we look forward to raising even more funds this winter. It’s just another example of how DCW Polymers is striving for a circular economy, and with this campaign, also helping those in need.

Conversation around plastic waste is certainly loud this month and I hope this encourages you to think about what more you or your business could be doing to recycle plastic waste and to contribute to a more circular economy. Myself and my team are always looking at ways in which we can improve our own processes and I hope you will join us and do the same.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can recycle your bulky plastic waste with DCW Polymers, give my team a call on 01392 535353 or email [email protected].

All the best,
Simon Almond

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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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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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