Soft plastics at events

this is a tricky one

Most MRFs hate soft plastics as they get entangled in their machinery and soft plastic can come from many different plastics types.

Film and soft plastics that are often rejected by typical MRFs include cling wrap, bubble wrap and shrink wrap or other soft plastics such as plastic bags, rice and pasta bags, cereal box liners, biscuit packets and even old re-usable shopping bags.

If you see these items can be deposited at local supermarkets, that is a hint a recycling service exists. In Australia RedCycle services supermarkets by collecting these items with the plastics re-processor Replas making them into items such as furniture and fencing.  

Work hard to understand in advance what film plastic may end up in the event site and get right down to the detail on how this is going to be most successfully recycled.

The problem is in venues and at events we produce a lot of the stuff. So soft plastic needs some special attention. You may need to collect these materials separately and find a service that will accept them..

Food traders, bars and caterers will be the big producers of film plastic. Create a campaign among these stakeholders to help make them understand that film plastic can be recycled, to allow them to identify what sorts of film to separate out, and to set up systems to make it easy to do so.

Challenge caterers, contractors and suppliers to transport materials, equipment and supplies not wrapped in cling wrap. This may require a lot of interaction and engagement with vendors and suppliers. The thing is you want to try and influence their use of film plastic as a main part of their business, not just as a once-off, which if they create a solution for you, may mean it is more resource-intensive!

Musto, the clothing partner were challenged to reduce the volume of single-use plastic used in the provision of their branded merchandise range. One of the most impactful things they did was to include one more fold in garments, basically halving the size of the bag needed, and then reducing the gauge (thickness) of the plastic bag. This lead to a 70% reduction in plastic use! Find out more

What type of soft plastic is that?

If you can scrunch it into a ball in your hand, then it’s soft plastic! The softer glossy type of plastic bags are LDPE. (They’ll stretch out if you pull them.) The crackly noisy type of bags that most supermarkets use are HDPE. But another type of crackly plastic is PP, and that’s the type of bag that a men’s shirt would be packaged in, or packet of cookies or crisps. The short-cut identifier for PP bags is if it’s crackly sounding but doesn’t stretch, rather it just splits, then it’s PP! It’s important to know as depending on your recovery facility, you may need to only give them one type of soft plastic or all the types but separated out.

Soft plastics recovery

While racing round the world the elite sailing event, Volvo Ocean Race, also had a mission to build awareness and action against plastic pollution in our oceans. At stopovers throughout the race recycling partners were sourced with a special focus on plastic film collection and recycling to ensure the event responsibly managed its own plastic footprint.

A sponsorship partnership was created between Europe’s biggest recycler of polythene, RPC bpi recycled products – which had a factory located close by in Rhymney, South Wales – and Cardiff Bay Authority.

RPC bpi recycled products worked closely with ESE – who provided the collection bins, Veolia – responsible for transporting the plastic film to the Rhymney factory, and Event Clean – the on-site cleaning company. RPC bpi recycled products added extra value to the sponsorship by not only organising the logistics of the plastics collection and donating over 3,000 recycled refuse sacks but once at the recycling factory the plastic film was sorted, washed and, made into plastic pellets ready for re-manufacture into second-life products, such as refuse and recycling sacks and plastic furniture, as part of the Plaswood product range.

The two-week event was a huge success in terms of media coverage, positive feedback and over 180,000 visitors during that period. In total 280kg of plastic film was collected from the VOR Cardiff Stopover – enough to make approximately 10,000 refuse sacks or four Plaswood Benches.