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Help us to be fantastic at recycling plastic

Here in the UK it seems we all think plastic is fantastic - we're using about 20 times more plastic than we did 50 years ago and in the last year alone we recycled the equivalent of 99 plastic bottles for each person in Britain.

And many of the plastic items we recycle - including some of those collected in the Moorlands - are given a new lease of life after being transformed into a surprising variety of items ranging from CD and DVD cases and seed trays and plant pots to fibre filling for pillows and duvets and fleece clothing.

Certain specified plastic items can be recycled through your recycling bins before being transformed into new items via a journey that takes them from the district to a recycling facility Hertfordshire and a processing plant in China.

Large loads of up to 18 tonnes are taken to the recycling facility for separation into different types of materials. If the material is heavily contaminated with items that can't be accepted, it has to undergo a sort before entering the main facility - and this is currently costing the district thousands of pounds per week.

Staffordshire Moorlands District Council is now appealing to people to help reduce these costs by only recycling items that can be accepted by our contractors.

Councillor Arthur Forrester, cabinet member for the environment, said: "Plastic is something that most households use on a regular basis so being able to recycle some of these items makes a huge difference and reduces the need to create 'new' plastic.

"Items we collect here go on a journey which begins in our homes thanks to the efforts that our residents make to re-use and recycle. But it is important that only those items that can be processed are included in loads for recycling as the inclusion of other items is currently costing us around £4,000 every week."

Back at the recycling facility, plastic items are separated and cleaned then sorted by type and then by colour. Infra red technology sorts the different plastic types and the machines are set up to recognise items by size and shape before shredding them and melting them into pellets for use in new plastic items

Councillor Forrester added: "There's more involved in the recycling process than perhaps people realise and that is why we can't just accept any plastic items on our scheme. For example, coat hangers, plastic bowls and buckets might be made of the correct type of plastic but aren't the right size and shape for the machines.

"That's why we're appealing to people to double-check and only leave items in their grey bins that can be collected by our contractors. If you're not sure, there's a full list on our website so, if it's not on the list, please don't put it in your bin."

The right materials for recycling include glass bottles and jars; plastic bottles, pots, tubs and food trays; food tins and drinks cans; foil food trays and aluminium baking foil; cartons such as Tetra Pak; empty aerosols; and cardboard packaging and flattened cardboard boxes. These items should be empty of food and drink, clean and dry so that the cardboard doesn't soak up moisture and clog up the machinery in the recycling process.

Items should not be put into grey bins inside carrier bags or black sacks as the plastic bags themselves are not recyclable by our reprocessor.