Recycling – the St Hélyi way

If you are lucky enough to live in the Parish of St Helier, then you are one of just 6 parishes that provide a kerb-side collection for recycling – the others being St Lawrence, St Brelade, St John, St Mary and Trinity.  You can find out what gets collected (and when) from the following link – https://www.gov.je/Home/WasteRecycling/WasteCollectionFacilities/Pages/RubbishCollections.aspx#anchor-2

St Helier depot from the secure viewing platform.

I recently wrote to all the Connetables of the island to ask if I could meet with them and talk through parish recycling and I’m working through those meetings now.  As part of this project I was kindly invited to visit the recycling depot for St Helier with the Connetable, Simon Crowcroft and the Director of Municipal Services, Debra D’Orleans.  There is a purpose-built viewing platform and teaching area which is used with visiting schools and community groups. I didn’t even know that St Helier had it’s own recycling depot!  But St Helier have been offering kerb-side collections for nearly 5 years now…..

Pink and blue bags of recycling awaiting collection

St Helier collections are carried out through a bag collection system.  Parishioners are issued with sturdy plastic bags in blue and in red.  The blue bags are used for the collection of light card and paper, with light card meaning birthday cards, cereal boxes and light packaging.  Paper is all paper – newspaper, magazines, envelopes, till receipts, printer paper etc.  The red bags are used for all metal packaging, plastic bottles and all their lids.  Heavy duty cardboard can be left alongside the recycling bags for collection too.

Some areas have wheelie bins for their recycling bags

The bag system is used because St Helier has a large number of flats, studios and bedsits – meaning large bulky boxes wouldn’t work in these areas where storage would be an issue. The bags are sturdy and seagull tested – although a voracious few may make it through.  In some areas wheelie bins are also offered as a way of holding the recycling in a central place for a number of flats.  House-hold recycling collections are carried out once every 2 weeks.

Looking down into the recycling depot from the viewing and teaching area

The bags can be collected in any normal refuse truck when the sweep plate is disarmed, which stops the bags being crushed.  All the recyling bags, red and blue, are loaded together into one truck – along with any heavy duty cardboard.  Some of the recent comments on Facebook were from people saying why bother recycling separately when it all gets thrown in together anyway – and this is why.  It’s just a means of transporting the combined recycling to the depot for sorting and the bags and contents stay intact.  It also means that the collectors can just grab and go – and they don’t need to spend time at the collection point in sorting the recycling into different compartments.  I’m sure the traffic following behind would be thankful too.

Cardboard baling area

As well as the cardboard collected from household kerb-side collections, the depot also handles the heavy duty cardboard which is collected from parish businesses on a daily basis (weekdays only).  The cardboard is fed to the baling machine which compresses it into large bales.  The parish collect approximately 6 bales worth of cardboard on a daily basis.

Bales of heavy duty cardboard

These are then packed, 36 bales at a time, into a huge trailer and shipped fortnightly to France for recycling into cardboard boxes once more.  Although in November, the depot has to ship more frequently because the volume of cardboard increases significantly in the lead up to Christmas – the knock-on effect of consumerism.  Heavy duty card is the highest volume of recycling, which is not surprising given the number of shops in St Helier.  The cardboard is shipped to Allard Emballages who work their magic and convert the old cardboard into carpet-like rolls of new cardboard once more.

Euro-bins filled with paper and light card

Once the cardboard has been processed the baling machine is put to use for the paper and light card.  The blue bags are opened at one end of the conveyor belt.  As the contents move along the belt there are three staff who work at picking out contaminants – food soaked paper, non-paper items etc.  At the end of the conveyor belt the paper and card end up in a green euro-bin, a collection of which are then poured into the baling machine.

Finished bales of paper and light card

The bales are each weighed and recorded – both for shipping weight and load plan purposes and as a note of what is going to the processor, and therefore what the depot gets paid on.  All shipping costs are met by the shipping operator, who has greater leverage in agreeing shipping prices than the depot ever could.

Paper and light card, baled and ready for a trip to France

These bales are also loaded onto their own trailer and shipped to France, as and when required. The thing I find quite  sad is that even though there are kerb-side collections for St Helier, and all these processes in place for recycling – only 30% of the waste is actually recycled.  I’d love to understand what would drive more people to recycle, or what it is that is stopping them from recycling.  Have your say – I really look forward to hearing the whys and the why nots on the comments – and these will be forwarded to the St Helier depot to see what can be done.

The conveyor belt, ready for action.

Next its the turn of the red bags – the metals and plastics – and the conveyor belt is put to use again here.  The bags are emptied onto the belt for sorting, where the plastics are picked out and graded while the metals are left to fall off the end of the belt and into a collection bag.

The Alpack 5000 – a metals sorting and crushing machine

The metals are then loaded into the Alpack 500, a metals sorting machine which separates the contents into steel and aluminum.  Aluminum generates nearly 5 times as much revenue as steel which is why it is important to separate.  The steel is collected and then added to the main baling machine (as used for cardboard and paper).

Aluminum crushed into bales

The Alpack 500 itself is used to crush the resulting aluminum into small bales.  I absolutely loved these bales and would love one to repurpose into a piece of eccentric furniture – smothered in resin first so you don’t hurt yourself sitting down!

Sorted bottles, ready for the splitting machine

The depot has a machine with blades that splits the bottles prior to baling. They are sorted into two grades of plastic first – loosely around the drinking type of bottle (water, cola) and the washing type (fabric conditioner, shampoo).  By splitting the bottles it ensures that you are shipping just the plastic from the bottles and not shipping bales worth of unnecessary air too!  It takes 22 of these huge bags filled with plastic to make just one bale, that’s how well they crush down.  The added advantage is that by splitting and crushing the bottles, they can also be left with their bottle-tops on – not something which can do done in the La Collette recycling centre as they use a different process.

Plastics are a real bug-bear for me.  Why we insist on using a finite resource to create plastic packaging, which is used once and casually thrown away is beyond me.  Plastics are only ever down-cycled, not recycled on a like-for-like basis as metals, paper and glass are.  My first choice would be to not buy plastics if at all possible as a best case scenario – or buy recyclable plastics as a worse-case scenario.  Non-recyclable plastics should have no place in modern society, with the knowledge we have.

One of the vast trailers used for shipping the recycling waste.

The resulting bales of aluminum, steel and plastic are then loaded into one mixed trailer and to shipped to the processor.

The red and blue recycling bags awaiting recycling themselves

A really nice surprise is that the red and blue recycling bags are also baled and recycled themselves.

The depot also has to account for the non-recyclable waste they receive.  This is weighed and recorded before going to the energy from waste plant with the standard refuse.  They have a waste license, which is paid to the Environment Department, and have to report major incidents of contamination. These don’t happen often, but are frustrating when they do.  If a contaminant, such as oil, was added into the recyclables then the whole truck load is lost to the energy from waste plant, and then the depot have to spend time cleaning out the truck.

Simon identifies his own rubbish!

One word of warning if you do recycle though – make sure that any personal details are shredded to keep sensitive data safe.  As we were looking at the baled paper Simon managed to pick out a piece of rubbish from his own home!

So, if you do recycle in St Helier this is what happens to your waste stream.  If you don’t currently recycle – then please consider it.  The processes are in place and there is plenty of capacity to handle a large increase in recycling rates.  If you don’t live in St Helier but want kerb-side recycling then please speak to your Connetables – otherwise how will they know?

With many thanks to Simon and Debra for their time and enthusiasm.

 

 

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