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Action plan to boost plastics recycling by 2017

The plastics sector has set out a strategy to help obligated businesses reach their 57% plastics recycling target for 2017.

The WRAP-commissioned Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan (Pirap) has now been taken on by Plastics 2020, an umbrella group led by the British Plastics Federation (BPF), the Packaging and Films Association and PlasticsEurope.

It makes a number of recommendations to the key stakeholders along the plastics supply chain that are designed to boost recycling.

Achieving the 2017 target rests entirely on the engagement and co-operation of all Pirap stakeholders, it concludes.

“While the Pirap is primarily an industry plan, it requires active support from the Government and its agencies. No individual stakeholder or sector can or should be expected to carry the burden alone. The interests and actions of all within the supply chain must be aligned towards the common goal of meeting the 2017 targets if the plan is to succeed,” it states.

To hit the target would require an additional 350,000 tonnes of plastic to be captured for reprocessing annually.

The report included the following outcomes:

  • new markets for recycled plastic and promotion of existing ones to drive market demand for recyclate
  • public procurement guidelines that focus on the use of resource-efficient materials to boost demand for products with recycled content
  • increased investment to extend the range of plastics collected from households, and a boost to the collection of rigid packaging from commercial and industrial streams
  • targeted communication campaigns to influence citizen behaviour to increase recycling and reduce littering
  • improvements to sorting infrastructure to improve the output of plastic recyclates
  • encouraging businesses to focus on product designs that favour recyclability

Philip Law, BPF director general, said: “It is a great achievement to secure an agreed document in an area which has become a political football. Plastics packaging recycling levels are a function of many factors, and the support of a very large number of organisations has to be harnessed to make significant progress.”

Resource minister Rory Stewart endorsed Pirap: “We are recycling more than ever before and have doubled the recycling of plastic packaging during the past 12 years. This reflects a lot of hard work by industry across the supply chain, but there is still more to be done.

“That is why it is so encouraging to see industry working together to develop this plan which will help us to protect the environment and grow the economy.”

Kim Christiansen, regional director of PlasticsEurope, added: “The proposed UK 2017 plastics recycling targets represent a great challenge to industry in taking it from a mid-performing to one of the top-performing member states in Europe.”

Pirap makes a number of recommendations to specific sectors:

Central Government: regulatory drivers should be updated to bolster the suggestions laid out in the report.

Local authorities: funding should be identified that will allow local authorities to revitalise and extend existing collections. This would need to be supported through enhanced communication with householders and co-operation with waste management companies to incorporate plastic pots, tubs and trays in household collections.

Waste management sector: efforts should be made to increase the volume of collected plastics and boost the quality of sorted plastic raw materials to the plastics reprocessing sector.

Plastic reprocessing sector: capacity will need to be increased by approximately 100,000 tonnes a year during the next three years through a combination of investment in capacity, process innovation and the development of new high-quality markets for recycled plastics.

Compliance schemes: work to ensure that all reprocessors of plastics packaging are registered to issue PRNs and PERNs in order to record accurately the quantity of recycling plastics packaging.

Obligated businesses (includes retailers, brand owners, packaging converters and fillers): product and packaging design should focus on increasing the use of recycled plastics.

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