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Plastics Europe singles out UK for high landfilled plastics rate

The UK sent to landfill 70% of post-consumer plastic waste in 2012, making the country one of the worst performers in Europe, according to an interational association.

A drastic improvement in the country’s plastics recycling and recovery is essential to help the EU achieve the goal of sending zero plastics to landfill by 2020, delegates at IdentiPlast, Plastics Europe’s recycling and recovery conference, were told.

The UK, along with Italy, Spain, France and Poland, accounted for some 80% of Europe’s landfilled plastics waste.

In comparison, countries that have introduced bans, such as Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland, sent less than 10% of plastics waste to landfill - in these cases plastic that could not be separated from other materials.

Martin Engelmann, resource efficiency director at Plastics Europe, said the UK was a crucial market for action. He used the following graph to show three different scenarios for UK plastic waste based on zero waste to landfill, 30% and 60%:

UK plastics to landfill Plastics Europe

“If we want to achieve the objective to send zero waste to landfill by 2020, something dramatic needs to happen, in particular in the UK,” he said

Engelmann told delegates in Paris that some factors could drive a change towards more recycling or energy recovery of plastics waste in the country.

UK landfills were expected to reach capacity by 2020, he said, and the UK plastics recycling industry had called for an increase in landfill tax from £80 per tonne to £200.

“This would remarkably reduce landfilling of plastics waste,” he said.

Plastics Europe is lobbying the European Union to introduce a ban or a “phase out” of plastics sent to landfill as part of a revision of the European Landfill Directive in 2014.

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