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From waste to resource: Is this the future for plastic?

Sky News logo Sky News 16/02/2019 Charlotte Lomas, Sky News correspondent
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Inspired by the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign, a region of the UK has created the country's first local circular economy.

The traditional system of getting rid of waste is linear: packaging is made, used and disposed.

But the local authority in Cambridgeshire along with a local plastics processor and packaging company have joined together to create a model which is circular.

a person in a yellow jacket: Charpak collects plastics and recycles them before making them available again locally © Sky News Screen Grab Charpak collects plastics and recycles them before making them available again locally In this way, packaging is removed from bins in the street, cleaned and processed and then recycled back into plastic to be reused by manufacturers and bought by consumers.

The company behind the scheme, Charpak Ltd, has been working on the project for the past 18 months.

It became operational early this year and it is hoped it will add value to plastic as a resource and also cut back on CO2 emissions because all the work will be carried out locally.

Justin Kempson, sales and innovation director, said: "This is a collaboration across multi-agencies, working together to re-purpose and reuse plastics and to create value in that.

a person with a suitcase: Recycling plastic is much more energy and time efficient than recycling an alternative, says Charpak © Getty Recycling plastic is much more energy and time efficient than recycling an alternative, says Charpak

"The benefit with then be felt locally and that is what is unique in the UK. A lot of people are talking about a local circular economy, we are creating it."

The long-term goal is to provide a framework that can be easily replicated across the UK, reducing the carbon footprint of recycling as every part of the process is carried out locally.

Heidi Field, waste manager from Huntingdonshire District Council which helped work on the project, said: "The main aim is to encourage people to recycle more and, from a residents' point of view, is to see the end product as well, to see what happens to their waste which we have collected from their kerbside."

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According to Charpak, recycling plastic is much more energy and time efficient than recycling an alternative.

Mr Kempson said: "Recycling plastics is approximately one third of the energy cost of recycling carton board and uses a tenth of the water when recycling corrugated or pulp paper. But what we need is for people to recycle more."

Those behind the local circular economy are calling for more people to recycle plastic so they can continue to ensure it is a valuable resource that can be used and reused forever. 

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