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Plastics industry renews concern over packaging recycling targets

The plastics industry has reasserted its concern over achieving escalating targets for recycling without greater action on household collections, landfill tax, recyclate quality and PRNs.

The plastics recycling targets are set to increase by five percentage points every year from 2013 to 2017, with a target of 57% of plastics waste recycled by 2017.

In response, resource management minister Lord de Mauley defended the Government’s position as an enabler rather than one imposing of greater regulation. He accepted that plastic targets were ambitious – at one point calling them “aggressive”.

The minister was responding to calls for more action at an event for Plastics 2020, a grouping of three trade associations with a goal to eliminate the material from landfill by the end of the decade.

The chief executive of the Packaging and Films Association (PAFA) Barry Turner, referred to increasing prices for PRNs and called for:

  • action to end councils’ disparate collection performance
  • a “great” increase in landfill tax with the extra revenue being ring-fenced for investment in recycling and EfW
  • more emphasis on the quality of recyclate
  • incentives to reward purchasers of packaging for using more recycled content
  • revision of the PRN system

Turner said: “We must drive plastic out of landfill but only with more recycling and EfW. We need to encourage more recycled content but if there no demand we will only create a mountain. If we do not act, we will continue to penalise the industry for overly ambitious targets.”

400-Lord de Mauley

In response, de Mauley, left, said it was the Government’s role to set the conditions for the market, businesses, local authorities and individuals to make the changes necessary to deliver Plastics 2020’s goal.

“The packaging recycling targets, established last autumn are an important example of this. I know the plastic targets are ambitious, I know that there are real challenges to be overcome but I’ve been hugely impressed to hear about the industry’s ambition and actions in recent months and I want to recognise the efforts …to develop a plastics industry action plan.

Then the minister added: “This type of collaborative working is exactly what is needed to deliver these aggressive targets to 2017”.

A review by Plastics 2020 of the current market talked of “apprehensiveness” around meeting these packaging recycling targets:

“The first quarter figures released by the Environment Agency have served to emphasise how difficult it was to pursue ambitious targets with such disparate collection systems across the country and a lack of developed UK recycling and outlets for recycled materials.”

  • The other members of Plastics 2020 are the British Plastics Federation and Plastics Europe. Together they represent 5,000 companies and employ 186,000 people across the UK.

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