UK plastics recycling needs boost, trade body says

6th April 2017

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  • Waste ,
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Large businesses and public bodies should introduce procurement policies on recycled content to increase the market for recycled plastic, according to the plastics industry.

Trade body the British Plastics Federation (BPF) has launched a strategy to improve plastic recycling through industry-led initiatives and regulation. It wants to retain more plastic material in the UK so it can be used by the manufacturing sector.

Large businesses and the public sector buying more products containing recycled content, would stabilise the market and help it to could, the BPF said. It would also promote UK-based manufacturing of products using locally-sourced raw materials.

The BPF acknowledged that there were barriers to procurement of recycled plastic products, including a perceived risk that they might include biodegradable plastic material that could prevent them from being used for long-term products, particularly in the construction industry.

The trade body has also proposed that targets for recycled plastics should be split between waste staying and leaving the UK. This would make it easier to increase recycling in the UK by creating recycling infrastructure and growth of the end market, it claimed.

The BPF pointed out that even though the rate of plastics recycling has increased, this was due to an increase in exports. Domestic plastics recycling had flatlined, it said (see below).

Currently, reprocessed material from UK facilities that is ready to be made into new products is considered the same as plastic being exported and which has not been reprocessed.

Retaining resources in the UK would be better for the environment as the material would be recycled closer to source, and would create UK-based jobs, the BPF added.

It suggests reforming the system of recovery notes, which businesses use to prove they have complied with producer responsibility obligations under the packaging waste regulations.

The trade body also backed extending producer responsibility (EPR) schemes so some of the onus for recycling shifts from local authorities to packaging and product manufacturers. Under the proposals, packaging and product manufacturers would taxed according to the amount of recyclable and non-recyclable materials used in their goods.

The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), waste firm Suez and waste body the Environmental Services Association have all recently called for changes to the EPR.

According to the BPF, reformed EPR schemes could help finance the development of new technologies to improve the viability of recycling certain materials. This fund could benefit the recycling of pots, tubs and trays. Around three quarters of local authorities offer recycling of these materials. However, only 30% are currently recycled, so there is potential for them to make a significant contribution to the UK’s target to recycle 57% of plastic packaging by 2020, it suggested.

Roger Baynham, chair of the BPF’s recycling group, said: ‘By focusing on keeping a valuable waste stream in the UK, refining the feedstock available to recyclers and encouraging the move towards a commercial environment that produces plastic products that are easier to recycle in the first place, the UK plastics recycling sector will get the tools it needs to help exceed its recycling targets and move towards a more sustainable future.’

The group is also working with the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan to increase recycling, including assessing how to overcome barriers that prevent certain plastics from being recycled.


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