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A look inside Lancashire’s biggest recycling plant

Posted on - 3rd February, 2011 - 8:21am | Author - | Posted in - News, Wildlife and Conservation

It’s a rubbish time of year for bin collections.

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Dead Christmas trees; cards and wrapping paper; broken toys and an unused exercise bike that reminds you of failed New Year’s resolutions past. January’s news is awash with garbage: councils and locals battle tides of waste that engulf our bins and our streets.

But not everyone’s making a stink.

The plant is home to a variety of weird and wonderful objects.

Over at the recycling plant in Ingol – Lancashire’s biggest – it’s a different story. The site, serving some 135,000 households, is a place the public can dump as many exercise bikes as it likes. Rubbish and recycling are separated by type: plastics, glass, paper, cardboard, oil, batteries, lightbulbs, metals, electrical goods and – perhaps most intriguingly – bric-a-brac.

‘Cross-contamination’

“We’ve even had ammunition brought in,” explains Steven Robinson, who lives in Longsands and has worked at the site for four years. “Hand grenades and stuff. Obviously we’ve had to shut the site down and get the bomb squad in. We’ve had old World War II shells.” He pauses. “Dead animals, too.”

The good people of Preston bring their waste to the site by car or van and separate it out by type. Steven’s job is to make sure they get it right – to avoid what he calls “cross-contamination”, where wood gets mixed up and dumped in the plastics skip, or people leave rolls of carpet in amongst the microwave ovens.

Old clothes are sorted and sent out to Third World countries or turned into rags depending on their quality. “We sometimes get divorcees,” says Steven, knowingly, “getting rid of all their husbands’ stuff without them knowing.”

Perhaps that also explains some of the more bizarre contents of the bric-a-brac shed: oil paintings, bicycles and crutches are all sorted into neat piles, their origins vague.

Recycling

In total, the plant recycles 71 per cent of the waste people bring – but Steven says that figure would be much lower if the plant didn’t have a team of five or more workers keeping an eye on the rubbish skips. While talking to Blog Preston, he absent-mindedly fishes rags, cardboard and electricals out of the “non-recyclable” area. He sighs. “We have got to start recycling,” he says. “It’s the way forward.”

With more and more councils opting for fortnightly refuse collections, it certainly seems that way. In Preston, there is no limit to how much recycling you can put out, provided you have the right boxes for it – but excess black bin waste could be outside your house for weeks.

So next time your bin won’t close because of all the exercise bikes, consider taking some of them up to the Ingol plant, where Steven’s team will be happy to help you help the environment.

Because cycling is good, but recycling is better.

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