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Plastics sector optimistic but concerned at recyclate quality

Plastics processors have indicated that unreliability of recyclate supply and client specifications are deterring the greater use of recycled polymers.

For the first time, the British Plastics Federation (BPF) included recycling in its latest six-monthly membership survey, the results of which were published today (20 February). A question sought to find out from processors why they did not use recycled polymers.

The single biggest reason given was the reliability of the recyclate (37%), followed by clients not wanting it in their products (32%); cost and processing difficulties (both 15%).

The survey was completed by 100 out of the BPF’s membership of 450 covering all parts of the industry. Other findings indicated what the BPF described as an optimistic outlook: 55% expected to increase turnover in 2013; 36% were looking to increase profitability and one-third planning to increase staff.

BPF director-general Peter Davis said: “The plastics industry is confident about sales this year and most (respondents) plan to make investments in plant and equipment.”

However, 19% expected a fall in profitability, markedly up on the previous survey’s 7%. Davis said they blamed exchange rates, Asian competition and raw material and energy costs.

“This shows the heavy external pressures on companies in a tough trading market,” he said.

Davis repeated calls for the UK’s training system to be “galvanized to meet skill shortages” in response to the finding that two-thirds of respondents said technical managers were hard to recruit while one-third struggled to find apprentices.

The BPF has unveiled a series of events during 2013 to mark its anniversary, including a ‘Plastics United’ forum in Manchester in June to bring together producers and distributors, machinery suppliers, manufacturers, service providers and recyclers.


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Readers' comments (2)

  • Bernard Chase

    The succesful and sustained use of plastic recyclate in manufactured products is not a one sided matter, rather it is a partnership between plastics reprocessers and their manufacturing customers. Plastic reprocessors routinely encounter exactly the same problems of inconsistency in both the supply and quality of the plastic waste they receive and are expected to invest in the plant and equipment necessary to combat the realities of their feedstock streams. Manufacturers of plastic products need to do the same if they are truly commited to increasing the use of plastic recyclate in their products from the perspecive of long term sustainability rather than short term cost down. How many manufacturers of plastic products, moulders or extruders, can claim to have invested in plant and equipment specifically designed to process recycled polymers? Small wonder the encounter production difficulties if they have not.

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  • Brands, retailers and manufacturers that are increasingly using recycled content and thereby supporting Britain’s green economy should be congratulated. At Closed Loop Recycling we’re proud of the work we and other recyclers are doing with companies such as M&S and the dairy industry to supply them with high quality UK-sourced recyclate that can be used in new food and drink packaging. Our industry is still relatively young but we have come a very long way in a short amount of time. Going forward, however, what we think would benefit these brands and companies hugely is for them to be exempt from the PRN obligation for the specific amount of recycled content they use in their packaging annually. This would act as a huge incentive for more companies to include recycled material in their packaging, increasing demand for recyclate which in turn would provide a boost to the UK recycling industry.

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