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Industry has a bright future

There are currently a number of high profile milestones, policy proposals and announcements that will have a massive impact on the future of our industry.

Firstly, the DEFRA consultation on packaging and waste recovery targets offers an amazing opportunity to secure the future of the plastic recycling industry.

At Closed Loop Recycling we wholeheartedly support the government’s preferred option of a plastics recycling target of 57% by 2017 as we believe it is achievable, good for the environment, gives investors confidence and as well as ensuring the current excess MRF sorting capacity will get closer to being fully utilised it will stimulate investment in bigger and better sorting infrastructure.

I also note from recent statements that our view is shared by progressive recycler Eco Plastics, major brands such as Coca Cola Enterprises and bodies such as the British Retail Consortium.

Second, the landfill tax will increase again from April 1st, which will potentially generate £160 million in extra revenue for the Treasury. The tax increases are intended to provide firms and councils with a financial incentive to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill as the government seeks to avoid imminent EU fines as a result of its failure to meet landfill reduction targets. The move will also strengthen the economic case for recycling, which will become more attractive as the cost of sending waste to landfill increases.

We are also encouraged by the EU roadmap to a green economy policy proposals, the CBI’s recent publication “Made to Last” and the “circular economy” ideas from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. These should all encourage manufacturers of goods and packaging to utilise recycled content wherever possible . 

Finally, the announcement that the government has found over £2 million pounds to revert to weekly collections . If this allows councils to afford the separate collection of food waste, it should improve the quality of other materials [ including plastics and paper ] which can often be contaminated by food waste.

Observing these four areas under consideration and action – the first three will encourage the collection of a valuable resource and the last can only be seen as a vote winner - it seems more than ever we need a coherent approach to waste and recycling at national and local level and between the various departments responsible for recycling, industry and the economy.

As our sector represents a valuable and growing manufacturing industry there should be also be cross party support in order to maintain stability and certainty for future investment. I have written to a number of MPs in the different parties to call for a coherent strategy at national and local government levels to ensure that any changes can be driven throughout the recycling chain.

Of course, hand-in-hand with the increase in recycling targets and these various initiatives,  it is essential that we see reform of the current producer responsibility system (PRN and PERN), which disproportionately incentivises the export of materials and green jobs to overseas markets. This is to the detriment of the UK recycling and reprocessing industry as well as a massive opportunity lost.

Additionally , materials are often processed to lower environmental standards abroad [ including landfill ] nd offer exporters to avoid green taxation in UK eg landfill tax . A sensible review of the relative values of the PRN and PERN is needed in order to address the unintended consequences of the flaw in the PRN formula.

Hundreds of millions of pounds has been invested in our recycling industry - which is now said to be worth £23bn - by tax payers and private institutions, in order that we can be ready for the next wave of recycling growth. This industry will be a major economic driver of the future, creating green jobs and providing a new generation of manufacturing capacity.

To achieve this, we need to continue to develop the infrastructure for plastic bottle reprocessing and continue to increase bottle collections. This can only be achieved through a collection strategy that gives every UK household the opportunity to recycle plastic bottles in convenient and easy to use systems hand in hand with an economic climate that creates a level playing field for companies operating in this sector.

Chris Dow is managing director of Closed Loop Recycling

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