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UK plastics recycling effort ‘understated’

The performance of the UK plastics recycling industry might have been understated as a result of an over-optimistic estimate of the amount of plastics packaging put onto market every year, it is claimed.

A study for the British Plastics Federation (BPF) suggests that an assumption by Defra of a 2.5% growth in plastic packaging placed onto the UK market - a figure of 2.5m tonnes figure - might have been overstated by as much as 400,000 tonnes per year.

The BPF says that overestimating the plastics packaging figure might have had far-reaching consequences because it is used to set recycling targets, currently at 42% and rising to 57% in 2017. It would also affect the plastic PRN prices.

The federation says: “For the last few years the UK plastics packaging chain has been performing better in its recycling achievement than has been reported to Europe. The mistaken assumptions on which business targets are calculated can lead to unnecessarily high costs and, with the EU considering higher recycling targets later in the decade, could put the UK at a further disadvantage to other Member States.”

Roger Baynham, chairman of the BPF’s recycling group, said: “It is disappointing that the UK’s plastic recycling performance has been understated. It is crucial that the actual baseline from which targets are calculated are accurate so that compliance costs are not exaggerated.”

The research was conducted by Phil Conran, director of consultancy 360 Environmental who analysed returns from the National Packaging Waste Database.

MRW has asked Defra to comment on the claims in the BPF report.

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