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Plastic free

On 13 December 2018 we pledged to become a single-use plastic free authority. Full details of the meeting can be found on our agenda and minutes page.

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) have developed a toolkit which details the main criteria needed to achieve Plastic Free Community status. In order for us to achieve this we need to support the key objectives and in doing so ensure that local governance arrangements are put in place.

At the meeting we asked Cabinet to:

  • appoint a Council Member representative to the Plastic Free Chester Group
  • review all plastic free communities’ initiatives across the borough and set out how we can support these
  • that we lead by example and set out a clear plan for removing all single use plastic from our premises

Our plastic free plan is currently being developed and will be made public in the near future. 


Plastic is a brilliant product with all sorts of uses, however, our reliance on it has made it a nightmare material especially when we don't recycle or reuse it correctly. It does not rot down and disappear; it just becomes more brittle over time and will crumble into small pieces (micro plastic) which will never go away. It will be around for thousands of years whether in a landfill site or in the rivers or seas. We need to use less of it and be wise about which products we do use.

On average 325 tonnes of plastics are collected by the Recycle First service in Cheshire West every month. Our residents are very good at recycling their plastic bottles and containers but there is still more we can all do.

There is an increasing appetite for the reduction of single use plastics and responsible plastic recycling. This was triggered by the Blue Planet 2 programme in 2017. Having litter picks and beach cleans are all very well but they will not solve the plastic contamination problems. 

People can still be confused about which plastics can and cannot be recycled. This means that many plastic items are still not put in the grey recycling box. In Cheshire West there are still many people that put their plastic waste in their black bins.


You can hugely reduce the amount of single use plastic you use just by making a couple of changes each week. You could even save some money. Here are a few suggestions:

  • remember your refillable water bottle, you can download the 'Refill' UK app which will show you where you can refill your water bottle anywhere in Great Britain
  • take a reusable coffee cup and refuse single-use take away cups
  • take your flask on long trips so that you will always have a hot drink at hand
  • say no to single use plastic bags, use a backpack or reusable bag for your shopping
  • refuse single-use packaging
  • resist a plastic straw or buy a re-usable one
  • avoid single-use plastics in the bathroom
  • refuse single-use condiment sachets
  • get local milk in reusable glass bottles
  • use a lunchbox and wax wraps instead of cling film
  • buy loose fruit and vegetables
  • cook fresh rather than having ready meals in plastic containers
  • take your own cutlery or use sustainable alternatives
  • use bars of shampoo and soap rather than liquid in bottles
  • try an electric shaver or reusable safety razor
  • buy products in bulk and refill as needed

We provide residents with a simple recycling system where materials are separated at home and at the kerbside. This reduces the amount of contamination going into the recycling process.

Contamination happens when non-recyclable items are mixed in with recyclables items or when recyclable items are placed in the wrong recycling bins. More information about what can be recycled at the kerbside can be found on our recycling and waste collection page.


We are unable to recycle plastic bags at the moment due to problems they cause with our sorting equipment. This is something we are hoping to address in the future. 

Plastic bags can be recycled at most supermakets. Many of them have boxes for collecting unwanted plastic bags. However, we would encourage the use of reusable bags instead. 


Compostable cups and cutlery

Although compostable items such as cups and cutlery are on the increase, the current recycling processes cannot compost the materials sufficiently. This is often due to the actual composting process, which cannot actually break the item down, which means that the item will contaminate the recycling. These items need to be avoided or put into the black bin.

Hard plastic items such as toys and light switches

Plug sockets are often made from ‘urea formaldehyde’ resin. This is a thermosetting plastic; its chemical structure makes it virtually impossible to recycle.

Plastic toys are often made of hard plastic and other small components that cannot be broken down or are not safe to recycle. You can donate old plastic toys to one of our reuse shops in Winsford, Ellesmere Port or Chester. Charity shops may also welcome looked after toys.


Polystyrene products such as cups and packaging material cannot be recycled at the kerbside. Polystyrene is not widely recycled in the UK because its makeup is a complex mixture of chemicals, which do not react in the same way to heat as other plastics, so it can't be processed in the same way. This is because they are difficult to sort from other types of plastic waste and easily break up into small beads, which can clog up sorting machines. These go into the black bin.

Plastic film

This is because the plastic is likely to be contaminated. Cling film can be soiled with food which can attract pests or cause blockages in automated sorting machines. Cling film is made up of complex chemicals to make it cling and stretch, so it cannot be recycled in the same way as a plastic bottle or tub. This type of plastic goes in your black bin.

Plastic bags

Plastic bags are a low-grade plastic, which cannot be mixed with plastic bottles and pots. You can recycle them separately at supermarkets or you could use the bag for your food waste to put in your brown food bin.

Chemical bottles/DIY plastic bottles

The content of these bottles may be hazardous so will not be accepted in your grey box. Please put these in your black bin.

Black plastic

Plastic items are sorted by optical scanners which use the reflection of light to identify the types of plastics. Black plastic does not reflect light, so cannot be seen and sorted by the scanners so could end up contaminating and discolouring other plastic. Please try to reduce the amount of black plastic you use and put what you do have in your black bin.

Recycling process

If you want to know what happens to your waste once your grey/red box has been emptied, you can watch a video about it on our YouTube channel

Cheshire West Recycling manage the collection and recycling of the plastics from the kerbside recycling scheme. This Council owned company work with a number of UK Re-processors who sort the material by polymer type. All recycling processors are regulated by the Environment Agency, and approved by us.

Processors shred/flake, hot chemical wash and compound (re-melt) the plastic back into a recyclable pellet to be made back into either sheets or blown packaging. The processed plastic may then be exported to other countries where they are used for the production of new plastic products.

The target materials within our single use plastic collection is made up of:

  • HDPE (Milk/Detergent) bottles
  • PET (Water/fizzy drink) bottles
  • PP (Butter/sweet/container) tubs
  • PS (Yoghurt pots)

The plastic free journey -  research and developments

  • Defra, in 2018, carried out a survey about plastic bottle recycling, plastic bottle bring banks and money back schemes. This has led to a trial introduction in certain areas of the UK for this type of scheme.
  • the war on plastic waste could spark the return of the neighbourhood milkman as figures show demand for milk in glass bottles is on the rise. People are appearing to boycott the plastic alternatives, which took over the market in the 1990s.
  • Prince Charles has joined the war on plastics. The heir to the throne said he had long had a "deep frustration" with the lack of action over mounting plastic in the seas, but added he is pleased to see a growing level of concern.
  • today people live in a disposable society. However, this year the media has been integral to changing people's attitude towards waste; packaging and food waste in particular.
  • family structures do still have a large part to play in people's attitudes towards recycling. If your parents are avid recyclers then you understand the importance. Unfortunately there is still a 'not my problem' culture towards environmental issues.
  • a potentially hazardous chemical used in certain plastic food packaging has been found in the digestive system of 86% of teenagers who took part in a recent study. The University of Exeter research looked at Bisphenol A (BPA), which makes plastics flexible but strong.
  • a year on from the launch of Sky's ocean rescue campaign, people say they have changed their behaviour on plastic use.
  • the focus of the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) this year is on plastic packaging. Supermarkets are working on cutting down and changing the plastic on their shelves. WRAP are working with industry on the UK Plastic Pact. Results and plans will be released this year.

Percy Plastic

Contemporary social artist, Emma Turner created a willow fish sculpture which was commissioned by our Recycling Awareness Team to raise awareness of plastic pollution and encourage reduction in the use of single use plastic.

Each one of us can make a big effort to use less single use plastic and recycle more. Put your single use bottle into the mouth of the willow fish to highlight the single use plastic problem. Make a promise to your family friends and Percy Plastic and free yourself and future generations from the plastic trap. 

If you would like to feed Percy Plastic then you will find him at the Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port.

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