Simplified packaging design, materials and collections is being called for by the Recycling Association (RA) to improve quality and make the UK’s recycling industry more competitive.
The RA 2018 Quality First Report looks at how the industry can improve quality and reduce contamination as domestic recyclers and overseas recyclers such as China demand higher quality input material.
It calls for retailers and packaging manufacturers to use only an approved list of packaging materials, and ideally for items to be made from a single material.
Supermarket giant Tesco has already produced its own approved list of own-brand packaging materials and the RA urges other to follow suit.
Pared-down packaging would enable a simplified label system which states simply ‘yes this can be recycled’ or ‘no it can’t be recycled’. The report also calls for local authorities to introduce ‘consistent’ collection systems so that all councils collect the same materials.
While the UK may now export plastic bottles, in the future these materials may need to be prepared for recycling and exported in the form of a recycled pellet, the report warned.
RA chief executive Simon Ellin said: “Never before has the quality of recycled materials, processes and infrastructure been so heavily scrutinised – both at home and abroad, and by those in industry and by the general public.
“We are currently in an unprecedented time when quality is centre stage. China continues to prioritise only the highest quality of materials with a tough inspection regime, while other Asian countries are also implementing their own bans on imports of recyclable materials, or at least further restrictions.
“Where we still can send material, we have got to ensure it is a high-quality commodity and not a waste. But we also need to recognise that UK recyclers want quality material too.
“We need to ensure that decisions made in the short- and medium-term, by the Government, by manufacturers, by authorities, by the public and by the industry all have quality at their centre.”