Bristol Open Doors - The Recycling Centre
Eco-Warriors on Tour at the Bristol Waste recycling centre
Not many things will get me moving on a Saturday morning (ahem, early afternoon) after a Friday night at Attic Bar but I’d booked tickets to the Bristol Open Doors and was set to go on a tour of the Bristol Waste Recycling Plant. So I rolled out of bed, threw some make up on (gotta get those insta shots) and uber’d down to Phillips Causeway to see what was going on. YES, I should have, could have, would have, cycled.. but I was hungover.
Now – those who know me know there is very little to cheer me up on a hangover day, and to most people the prospect of walking around a loud, smelly factory with rubbish flying everywhere and the occasional bean juice spillage on the floor would be absolute hell. BUT – not for me! I can’t tell you how excited I was to do this.
The Bristol Open Doors weekend is a series of drop in open days and tours all across Bristol and the surrounding areas, you get to see a different side to the city and learn about some of the incredible buildings, areas and secrets that we normally just walk past and don’t give a second glance to.
So off we trundled, admittedly we arrived 10mins late (to a 30min tour) so we were put on the next one… we donned the brightest of hi-vis jackets and took our ear protection buds (single use – boo, I would have bought my own if I’d known we’d need them!)
First we went past all the trucks that do the kerbside collections, now bear in mind that this place is JUST residential, this place runs 24/7 and only shuts down on Christmas Day and New Years Day – fair enough really. They’ve got a fleet of 60 trucks which do collections from 7am each day across the city. What was interesting is that the battering they take from constantly being filled and emptied, and the impact of left over food/drink damaging the trucks significantly. You can see around the edges of each section (for cans/plastic etc) they’re rusting away where bin juice collects and eventually erodes away the steal. So wash your recycling people! (I’m actually sure there’s other reasons why you should clean your recycling but more on that later)
One thing that really resonated with me – and was what was really trying to be put across by the people that worked there was that the more thorough residents are in separating waste, the better quality the bundles are (of paper, plastic, can etcs) so they’re easier to sell. For the recycling crew it starts at the source (us!)… but WE can go even further back than sorting at home, instead of being a perfect recycler how about thinking about how to reduce your waste so you don’t have the recycling in the first place!
You may have noticed that when you go to your grans house in Yorkshire the recycling is done in a different way. (hypothetically speaking now, I’m not saying everyone’s nan lives in Yorkshire, that would be weird – a type of Northern Retirement county). Anyway – wherever your nan lives, you will notice that some counties just expect you to put everything in 1 bag or wheelie bin then they collect it and sort it. Basically, the more effort the residents (us) have to put in to sorting it the better the quality bundles on the other side… making the whole process more productive and lucrative (money) for the council. The guy heading up the tour, I forget his name I was too excited, said that some counties find it difficult to sell their bundled recycling, and it just stocks up waiting to be moved to somewhere else. And since China stopped taking UK recycling at the beginning of this year it’s a buyers market so all recycling centres are up against it to produce good quality bundles which can be easily sold, otherwise nobody wants it.
Fortunately Bristol has very high quality bundles so they’re easily sold – whoop – well done Bristol!
We walked past the bundles – the aluminium ones fetch about £500 (for half a tonne). Aluminium and Steel are by far the best things to recycle money wise, as it can can be melted down and re-used again and again.
There were textile bins – YES Bristol, you can put textiles out with your recycling, and they’re ripped up an made into padding. Just put them in a separate carrier bag with a note on it for your bin men. Better still, take textiles to a charity shop, even if they’re old and battered, then they can decided if they’re worth selling, and if not they can get money for them. Basically, textiles are worth money – so don’t just send them to landfill.
Same with batteries – don’t just throw them in with your plastics but put them in a little envelope and label it so they can dispose them properly. The trouble with batteries is that they have really harsh chemicals in them, which can leak out into landfill sites and cause harm to local wildlife… OR they can combust under pressure, say if a 15tonne truck drives over them, which could be really dangerous given the levels of methane on a landfill sight.
They we went into the proper sorting building. You know in the Hobbit when Bilbo Baggins goes into the dragons lair and there’s piles and piles and gold and treasure everywhere... well this was like that, but less glamorous. There was epic piles of plastic and cardboard. The scary thing is that was 1 day's worth of waste.. the same again gets bought in the next day from a different part of town. it's never ending!
There was a cool machine which pulled the plastic and cans (green box) up a conveyor belt, then a spinning magnet at the top whips up all the steel and carried it to a separate pile. Then a second magnet spinning thing (but this one much stronger and more technical) does the same for aluminium.
I could have stayed and watched it all for ages - but what I really wanted to do was drive the big truck that pushed all the plastic bottles into a big pile ready for the conveyer belt. If I didn’t already have the coolest job in the world I would honestly apply to work there…