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Pooling resources

Here we are in January, the Christmas euphoria gone, looking at what 2005 holds. For those of us in the world of packaging recycling there is certainly no shortage of interesting challenges ahead.

This year will see the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Advisory Committee on packaging re-visiting the packaging recycling targets up to 2008. Will they conclude we're on course to meet the targets? If not, will they adjust the targets? Or, might they take other measures?

The question of what has to be done to meet the 2008 targets is the subject of a current study by David Davies Associates for Valpak, with the support of a range of material organisations. It is unlikely to make happy reading for us.

Meanwhile the material organisations are also working together to give common messages to local authorities and others involved in recycling and to maximise the value attained from the Waste and Resources Action Programme's (WRAP) activities. We in metals recycling were heartened by the inclusion of metals in WRAP's recent advertising campaign and hope to build on that success during the year.

Alupro, Alcan and Corus have also come together, with financial support from the Department of Trade and Industry, to commission from Dr Julia Hummel a computer model studying the economic costs and benefits to councils of including metals in multi-material kerbside collections. That study will be launched in February and it promises to be a very useful tool in assisting us to persuade local authorities to collect metals.

The difficulty is that when it comes to aluminium and steel, we can play little part in achieving local authorities' weight-based targets. We must instead persuade them that there are not only financial but strong environmental reasons to do so. Environment Minister Elliot Morley recognises the difficulty that this poses for metals and plastics and I am heartened that he is examining whether he might develop new targets to require local authorities to collect metals and plastic.

In the meantime, we in Alupro have been engaging councils with our trees campaign. That has involved our giving them a tree to plant for every tonne of aluminium recycled in the past year. We are currently planting 35,000 trees across the UK, with over 300 councils taking part. The campaign has secured substantial media coverage and helped encourage councils to recyle cans and raised public awareness of the value of doing so.

Other measures that Defra might take to ensure that the 2008 targets are met include financial incentives and disincentives to persuade the public to participate in kerbside collections, and experience with this elsewhere is encouraging.

Another option being considered is a deposit system. Such a prospect is hardly enticing for the metals industry, when we look at recent experience in Germany. We must, however, be able to convincingly assess its likely impact on our industries, and, to this end, a study is being carried out by the canmakers which will report in the early part of this year.

From what I have outlined, a clear theme that has emerged is the need for co-operation. If there is to be any prospect of our achieving the 2008 targets material organisations must work closely together. That is now happening, with very positive results. Within the aluminum industry we have been working to broaden the Alupro family to include reprocessor companies, with companies undertaking over 60% of reprocessing now being Alupro members and we are currently discussing how we can best work with the canmaker companies to ensure th

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