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UK plastics sector is recovering from crisis

The latest figures from PlasticsEurope reveal two positive trends.

Firstly that UK consumption of plastics is recovering from its 2009 low, which will be of some comfort to the 180,0000 people employed in the UK plastics sector and, secondly, that progress continues to be made in the recovery and recycling of used materials. In 2011 the UK recovered some 27.3% of all used plastics.

Whilst this compares unfavourably with the European average of 59.6%, these figures mask some important details such as the growth in bottle recycling and the high proportion of milk containers now recycled.

Less well known are the great strides being made in the recycling of PVC building products. This has been achieved on the back of an industry voluntary commitment which has been in train since 2001 and which is now dubbed ‘VinylPlus’.

Under this, a record of 362,076 tonnes of PVC were recycled last year across Europe with the UK as a leader, a remarkable achievement considering that these are long-life products and that building activity is flat-lined. We have now recycled over one million PVC windows in the UK.

There is a considerable drive in the UK plastics industry to play its part in recycling more and the achievement to date shows that there is a role for both legislation and voluntary initiatives to play their part.

However the whole supply chain and public authorities together with waste management companies are involved and the co-operation achieved between these parties to date needs to be deepened further to push recycling levels to greater heights.

Philip Law, public & industrial affairs director, British Plastics Federation

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