Plastic bottles in the bin and rats in the machinery: life on the front line of recycling


While working at the facility, the undercover reporter spent most of their time in an area known as “pre-sort”. Here, staff were told to remove black bin liners and other items which could not be recycled and discard them in the bins.

Plastic bags, recycling bags or light plastic were to be sent into the “chute” that stood above their heads and sucked up the materials, while electrical and larger items were to be taken to a “skip” where they would be processed. 

Staff were issued with protective clothing, but conditions in the warehouse were tough. 

Rats and cockroaches were seen on the conveyor belt and changing rooms, as well as downstairs where staff had to sweep among the bales of plastic or paper that were waiting to be transported.

Workers were instructed to stop the “line” if they saw a rodent in case it became caught in the machine, but few bothered. One woman told the reporter to “grab” items “like a raccoon”– an instruction which was accompanied by her miming how to use two hands to take items quickly from the line – and an undercover reporter working for The Telegraph and Unearthed saw at least six members of staff put recyclable items, including plastic bottles and paper, in the bins.


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