Around 80% of flexible packaging waste, such as plastic bags and laminate films, was landfilled in 2010, according to environmental consultancy Envicura.
While figures show an increase in flexible packaging recycling across the UK, this is a result of increased exports of the material to the Middle East and China. It means that 37% of packaging waste is now being sent overseas.
Envicura report author Steve Hillam said the reasons for a lack of recycling in the UK are an inability to split multi-layered composite film layers, material contamination and high ink ratios.
“There is not a market here for recycling this packaging,” he said. “Plastic bags are very low-quality recycled plastic. There are also fairly small tonnages of material, at 60,000-70,000 tonnes, so there is not a big driver to create a market here.
“Some of the material is incinerated. But I think exports are likely to increase in the next few years as collections for this material increase, such as those now available at some supermarkets.”