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2013 Review - Jonathan Short

Back in December 2011 I produced a similar review of the year for MRW. The conclusion then was that our industry had made progress, but that more still needed to be done. Analysing the last 12 months it’s hard to avoid reaching the same conclusion this time around.

2013 has been a year of achievements, but it’s no time for us to rest on our laurels. Major concerns over the quality of the UK waste stream and the continuing policy of incentivising export ahead of domestic processing must be resolved, and quickly.

From a personal perspective, 2013 was very successful for ECO Plastics. Having launched our Continuum joint venture in May 2012, we reached the milestone of processing half a billion bottles within a year, a phenomenal performance by the team and a positive prognosis for the industry as a whole I hope.

Far more importantly, the UK also made significant progress towards the introduction of a mandatory Code of Practice for Material Recycling Facilities. This is a pre-requisite if we are to tackle the increasing contamination of the material that comes to re-processors which has shut several companies down in the last year. The Government must introduce an undiluted code as its first order of business in 2014.

Alongside this I am also heightened by the signs that Defra is considering a review of the Packaging Recovery Note scheme. I have written in these pages before of the lunacy of allowing exporters to generate 25% more revenue than their domestic counterparts, and my position today remains unchanged.

I am also encouraged to read the APSRG’s Exporting Opportunity? report in which they recommend Defra introduce a PRN offset vehicle to encourage the greater use of recycled content in new products. As a member of the BPFRG we have put forward such a proposal previously and hope it is welcomed.

If we want a comprehensive and world beating waste industry, we must allow UK processors to generate the revenues needed to finance the creation of new infrastructure, rather than subsidising the export of our raw materials abroad.

One cloud hovering on the horizon is the household recycling rate, which has plateaued alarmingly in recent years. If the rate of increase continues as it has done, then we are in real danger of failing to meet our 2020 EU target. I firmly believe that a consumer education campaign on how the system works and what can be recycled will quickly address the problem and lead to an improvement in the quality and quantity of material sent for reprocessing.

Whilst attending relevant conferences within the UK and Europe there is a real sense of frustration around the on-going dialogue with little apparent action. We now need less conversation and more action. So, as in 2011, I call for more of the same. Or as the song more memorably put it, to ‘keep on keeping on’.

Jonathan Short, chief executive, ECO Plastics

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