From naivety to a new resolve

Visiting Southwark Recycling Facility


I really am naive.


I’m not sure what I was expecting to find at the recycling facility but…


Did I really think that there would be some kind of sterilisation machine for glass and cans?

Did I really think that the glass jars would go off and be filled up with jam again, ready to sell at the supermarket? and the cans would be refilled with soup or chopped tomatoes, sealed and put back on the supermarket shelf?


I am clearly far too practical, as both those things make sense to me. Because surely the circle would be complete, and they would be reused for the same purpose they were produced. Clearly, I’m too far ahead of my time. The circular economy is not yet that far advanced. (I think, but prove me wrong please).


Inside the facility, the cans get crushed, as do the skip fulls of tetra packs, the hoards of cardboard, newspaper and mixed paper (which a nifty ultrared ray machine quietly detects via the light that rebounds off each discarded paper going through it- optical sorting- differentiation by precision. It then gets blown off the conveyor belt with a jet of air, I like that bit), plastics (that old chestnut) and not forgetting aluminium and steel. In fact each product gets separately bulked up into huge bails (and I mean the size of a small lorry) wrapped up in wire and stored ready to be loaded onto arctic lorries. (I have visions of lorries covered in snow and ice)


It’s bought up by contractors who make it into something else. I ask the lady who very efficiently shows us around, what happens to the bulked up products, what does it get made into? ‘We don’t know what. It depends on the contractors. They change quite often in response to the market value for the product.’


Of course. I am so naïve. It’s a commercial product after all, subject to fluctuations in the economy as any other product.


She continues ‘We do know that ever since the glass subsidy was stopped by the government, glass is hard to get rid of. Now it’s only use is underlay for roads, under the tarmac.’