While some of the assumptions in the EU green paper on plastics waste (see page 10) will make the blood of industry veterans boil, particularly its comments concerning chemical safety, the industry must see the consultation as an opportunity and work with it.
The important thing is that the benefits brought by plastics as materials were fully accepted. The paper embraces many existing industry initiatives.
The industry’s recycling record has increased rapidly, with a starring role for milk containers, and there is a growing body of guidance on ‘design for recycling’. The paper dwells heavily on voluntarism and, again, the industry has been quick to introduce its voluntary commitment on PVC, dubbed ‘VinylPlus’. This has brought the recycling of PVC building products to almost 50,000 tonnes a year.
One central aspect raised by the European Commission is a proposal for a landfill ban. Whether this is a magic formula to radically increase recycling is something that requires challenge and debate. Would it stimulate a massive increase in recycling capacity? Would it orchestrate the much-needed dialogue between all those in the chain? Would it resolve the quality problems with used plastics emerging from MRFs?
How will it standardise collection between councils when localism has been espoused by all three major political parties? Or will a ban lead to yet more exports of our used plastics? The policy makers have their work cut out - and so do we in helping them get it right.
Public and industrial affairs director, British Plastics Federation