Packaging targets fall

7th April 2016

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Andrew Pitts

George Osborne's reduction in the targets for recycling plastic packaging drew a mixed reaction from industry.

This year they will be trimmed from 52% to 49%, then increased by 2% each year to 57% in 2020. The target had been due to increase to 57% next year. For glass, the 77% target will be maintained until 2017, then increased by 1% a year to 80% in 2020. Osborne claimed the changes would reduce the burden on business.

Osborne’s decision to revise the targets follows a consultation by the environment department (Defra) last year to renew them before they expire in 2017. The department said new data on plastic packaging placed on the market suggests that the UK’s recycling rate is higher than expected.

Jakob Rindegren, recycling policy adviser at waste trade body Environmental Services Association, said he was disappointed that the government had decided to lower its recycling ambition, particularly for plastic packaging, especially given the difficult position plastic recyclers are in. ‘Lowering the targets and therefore also the producer responsibility contributions towards packaging recycling sends the wrong signal and sets an unhelpful precedent that adds uncertainty to already volatile recycling markets,’ he said.

But Chris Murphy, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, said low oil prices had caused a huge fall in the price of plastics, and recycling was the victim of this. ‘It’s all very well collecting it, but you have to have an outlet,’ he said. ‘The changes to the targets are pragmatic, they’re not going to extend the targets before they’re achievable.’

Peter Jones, senior consultant at consultancy Eunomia, said the targets had little influence over how much packaging needed to be recovered. Quantities were likely to increase due to council recycling targets and landfill tax.

A new report from charity Wrap revealed that recycling of plastic packaging in the UK had increased by more than 50% between 2009 and 2015 to 891,000 tonnes last year.

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