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Film role

Increases in Landfill Tax, the Packaging Regulations and new controls on agricultural waste make the recycling of plastic film vital. But collection issues need to be addressed.

The value of recycled plastic film and its commercial possibilities is the subject of a recent report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which must achieve its Government-set target of recycling an additional 11,000 tonnes of non-bottle plastics by 2006.

Although WRAPs chief concern is to establish new markets for recycled goods, this latest report, carried out by consultancy Pira International, looks at improving supply rather than increasing demand. The report explains how plastic films contain polymers that are highly reusable and saleable when made into thicker film products such as damp-proof membrane and silage wrap.

WRAP plastics project officer Michelle ORiley says there is economic sense in businesses using recycled film: The materials used in film packaging can be high value, and when recycled, companies are getting a quality product for a lower price.

As the market for recycled-film products is well established, WRAP instead looked at increasing the collection of film waste from the commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors to supply demand.

The study focuses on packaging waste, such as pallet stretch and shrink film, heavy-duty sacks from the commercial and industrial sectors, and silage wrap from agriculture. It estimates that waste film arising from these sectors in the UK is between 280,000 and 309,600 tonnes per annum, and the current collection rate is at about 48%.

However, as a result of the investigation, WRAP believes that 71% of the film consumed in the UK could be collected for recycling. Making such a massive leap in collection rates will not be easy, and the study identifies a number of logistical and economic barriers to this ambitious target.

These barriers are particularly evident in agriculture, where there is little financial incentive to recycle and farmers often do not have the space to store used silage bags and shrink-wrap. However, ORiley is confident there will be an increase of agricultural waste film collected: I think that as Landfill Tax goes up it will prove more attractive to farmers to recycle, she says.

How long that may take is a different matter, and something that WRAP has addressed, proposing an up-front levy to cover farmers costs of storage and collection. The study has come up with a number of recommendations to increase collection levels, which includes:

l Recording tonnages to identify where waste film arises and in what quantities

l Encouraging companies to investigate opportunities for backhauling waste to a central location

l Improving levels of sorting at waste generators

l Establishing a clearing house system for film

The report also identifies the need for stability in the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) market to build confidence as an oversupply of PRNs has led to a price crash.

This is currently being investigated by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and results of the study are due soon. u

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