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Call for greater plastics co-ordination in Scotland

A detailed analysis of the plastics recycling industry in Scotland has called for co-ordinated development of its collection, management and reprocessing.

The report from Zero Waste Scotland, Developing the Evidence Base for Plastics Recycling in Scotland, argues there is “significant value in optimising the integration of each part of the supply chain”.

It says that while low-quality materials are exported to the Far East, improving the quality in terms of cleanliness and contamination would increase the potential for recycling of materials within Scotland and the UK.

The report quantifies plastic waste arisings in each of the 32 Scottish local authority areas and aggregates them to a Scottish level. It also details waste plastics processing capacity in Scotland and maps how waste plastic arisings are managed and recycled.

Taking figures from 2009, Zero Waste Scotland notes that the proportion of plastic arisings sent to landfill or incinerated is either 73% or 83%. Uncertainty exists because of variation in the evidence on arisings from commercial and industrial sources and the authors call for improved data from this sector.

Based on these two values, they project a recycling rate of 17% or 27% in 2009 rising to 39% or 47% in 2014 and 45% or 52% by 2025.

The conclusions of the report are:

  • It is necessary for collection, management and reprocessing activities to all be developed to increase plastic recycling levels in Scotland
  • These must be developed in parallel. It is not economically practical to expect one stage of the supply chain to be developed in advance of others
  • There is significant value in optimising the integration of each part of the supply chain, to optimise the quantity and quality of materials available for reprocessing
  • Scotland must be considered as an integral part of the UK plastic recycling infrastructure. Initiatives that complement existing UK recycling capability will offer maximum benefit to Scotland
  • Increasing the quality (in terms of materials specificity, cleanliness and contamination) of materials collected will increase the potential for UK recycling of materials

Plastics arisings from the household, commercial and industrial, construction and demolition, and agricultural waste streams were included in the analysis, (see file, right) as well as waste electrical and electronic equipment and end-of-life vehicle arisings.

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