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Reward those who commit to EPR

Keith Freegard

If the UK is to introduce some form of extended producer responsibility to boost recy­cling rates of plastic packaging, then it must be time to link the performance of an organisa­tion’s products with how well they perform within the cur­rent systems for end-of-life materials recovery.

Unless there is a mechanism that allows organisations to benefit financially from ‘doing the right things’ in terms of designing product and pack­aging for high levels of recov­ery, there is no incentive for the early adopters of circular econ­omy (CE) practices to make the necessary changes to their in-house design procedures.

A company that commits to change and then delivers a complete reappraisal of its grocery or other packaging product designs, in a way that follows the current best prac­tice guidelines for recycling back into new materials, should be credited on an indi­vidual basis for the work they have delivered.

We should embrace the opportunity to build in some reward-based, pull-through drivers that encourage design innovation and forward-think­ing organisations. If a com­pany uses a lot of recycled material in its packaging prod­ucts, then it should be able to offset a significant amount of its total obligated tonnage that it puts on the market.

For example, take a large UK dairy using 30,000 tonnes a year of HDPE to make bottles. If it used 20% recycled con­tent, you might argue that it should receive 20% off its packaging obligations.

“If a company uses a lot of recycled material in its packaging products, then it should be able to offset a significant amount of its total obligated tonnage that it puts on the market.”

At recent plastic packaging recovery note prices, that could be more than £50,000 of sav­ing in producer responsibility costs. That’s a bonus for really delivering on CE practices, creating a more stable market for recycled polymer.

If that hypothetical dairy also managed to adhere to a ‘perfect’ bottle design, it should get further financial credit for following good design practice.

This means that the material arriving at the recycler’s plant is able to be turned into a high-value and high-quality second­ary raw material without a loss in yield from undesirable packaging. Such numbers are likely to make an organisation take notice.

If more big brands adhere to better packaging design, it will result in a better yield of material for recycling and move in the right direction. Better yields and more demand is a real market-driven way of cre­ating increased value around the organisation that is creat­ing a final quality product – the recycled polymer producer.

More demand should keep quality materials in the UK and better quality recyclate keeps UK recyclers in busi­ness. This becomes a ‘virtuous circle’ of local resources bring­ing jobs, value and economic benefit for the UK.

Keith Freegard is director of Axion Consulting

 

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