2018 Rubbish Revolution: January

If you follow us on social media you may be aware that Studio Bark has committed to a year of zero waste to landfill and incineration for 2018. This first month has revealed a lot about how waste is managed and the uphill challenges facing the UK. We were fascinated by a visit to Bywaters, our local recycling centre and a forward-thinking waste management organisation, where we learned a great deal, changing how we recycle and how we understand the management of waste.

Pledge Update

Since our initial ‘zero waste to landfill’ pledge at the end of 2017, we’ve realised that the subject of recycling is far from black and white. This month we’ve really got to grips with what our initial pledge means in practice:

Having found out that much of our non-recyclable waste goes to ‘energy from waste’ incinerators we altered our pledge to ‘zero waste to landfill and incineration’.

The waste recycling industry is global and political. Waste management centres are important stepping stones, collecting and sorting our waste before selling it on to material specific facilities. Centres like Bywaters, operating best practice waste management, hold agreements with reprocessors and recyclers abroad to ensure that any recyclable materials that they sell are treated as a valuable commodity. However, not all recycling plants do the same, making it difficult to find out where our recyclable waste actually ends up. Worryingly, this report suggests that once recycling is shipped from our shores it effectively goes off-radar and can end up in landfill abroad.

Whether certain materials are recycled is a question of economics, so what’s recycled one day, and in one location, may not be the next. If the price of crude oil – used in the manufacture of plastic – is high, it incentivises recycling of waste plastic. Conversely, when the price of crude oil drops the financial incentive to recycle become less compelling.

It would seem the only way we can actually guarantee zero waste to landfill is to generate zero waste. Despite these complexities, there are some general rules of thumb and Bywaters have been helping us find out find out what can and cannot be recycled.


Audit Trail

Part of Studio Bark’s aim through taking this pledge is to get to the bottom of what is and isn’t recyclable. Historically, we’ve been surprised at how difficult this has been, but with the help of our new contacts at Bywaters, we’ll be covering five materials each month and letting you know what we find out.

Kicking off the Audit Trail for January we have:

1. Crisp Packets: Not recyclable
Starting off with some bad news, the economics of recycling the kind metallised plastic film that makes crisp packets doesn’t stack up, meaning that every bag of crisps consumed is almost guaranteed to end up in landfill, or worse, as pollution.

2. Film: Recyclable (we think)
Following our visit to Bywaters, we’ve learnt that all types of clear film are sold on to a specialist film recycling plant, however, our audit trail has been curtailed by not (so far) having spoken to them directly to find out if they end up throwing certain types away. We’ll keep you posted if we can find out more. In the meantime, make sure you put all your plastic film types (from soft cling film to rigid cellophane) into your recycling bin.

3. Black plastic: Not recyclable
Black plastic cannot be recycled due to the methods with which waste is sorted. In non-technical terms, black plastic can’t be ‘seen’ by the infrared lights used for sorting plastics and so ends up as landfill.

4. Composite food packaging: Not recyclable
Similarly to crisp packets, the composite material used for sealable food packaging is not economically or environmentally viable to recycle due to the amount of energy it takes to separate the composite layers.

5. White polystyrene: Not Recyclable
Expanded polystyrene, used extensively in packaging, can be recycled. Technically all plastic can only be down-cycled, so it is worth avoiding products or packaging that seems excessive.


Follow our progress via the twitter account @myrubbishrevolt, #myrubbishrevolution.

Thanks to WasteAidUK, The LLDC and Bywaters for helping Studio Bark hit the ground running with this pledge. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with these, and other, waste revolution stakeholders in the coming months of the campaign.


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