In Wokingham District we are able to recycle plastic bottles (without their tops) by putting them in the kerbside collection black boxes. Peter Baveystock, the Council’s recycling and waste manager gave us this information on why only bottles are collected.
• The cans/plastic bottles are taken to Grundon at Beenham where the steel and aluminium cans are taken out by magnet and eddy currents respectively. The plastic bottles are sorted by hand into the two types which are PET - Polyethylene Terephthalate (fizzy drinks bottles) and HDPE - High Density Polyethylene (bleach, washing up liquid, softener bottles and plastic milk containers).
The plastic is sent on to various plants and recycled as follows:
• PET - is cleaned flaked and turned into polyester fibre and made into fleece materials.
(The melting point of plastic – around 180C, is too low to ensure that all bacteria, moulds, viruses etc are destroyed. This means that household waste plastic can’t be re-used for food containers.)
“The reason we only include PET and HDPE is that all plastics have to be separated back to their individual polymers as they can't be recycled mixed. We have markets for PET and HDPE, but none for yoghurt pots which are polypropylene or margarine tubs which are polystyrene. Neither can we accept Tetrapak which is virtually indestructible.
You may wonder why, as many other sorts of containers are made from PET & HDPE, that these are not allowed in your black box. The problem arises in the sorting process as there is no failsafe method of separating, for example, a fruit container made from PET and a seemingly identical one made from a different plastic. Bottles are nearly always made from either PET or HDPE and the ones that aren’t are easily distinquishable.
2014 update: Other plastic (yoghourt pots etc) can now be recycled at Sainsbury's, Winnersh. This excludes black meat trays, polystyrene and plastic film.
2020 update: For some time now, most plastics can be recycled in the weekly collection. This EXCLUDES black plastic and polystyrene. Check on the WBC website if you are unsure.