The Resource Association (RA) is calling for “bold and radical” leadership from the Government to stimulate secondary markets for plastic waste in the UK.
The association says the crackdown by China on the import of plastic recyclate will have a serious impact on the UK recycling supply chain, and requires greater producer responsibility for plastic products placed on the UK market.
Chief executive Ray Georgeson said the Chinese position presented an opportunity to rebalance the UK recycling economy and develop domestic markets and sustainable end uses for secondary materials.
“By definition, this will not solve the short-term challenges that need different interventions, but as Defra revisits its resources and waste strategy and secretary of state Michael Gove expresses the need for the ‘reshoring of our dirt’, an action plan for secondary resources is essential,” he said.
The RA says the most reasoned response to the Chinese restrictions would be to improve the quality of UK recyclate and to back its use in UK manufacturing wherever possible.
It calls for the balance of responsibility for plastic products placed on the market to shift towards producers through design for recyclability and minimum recycled content.
Georgeson added: “[Environment secretary] Michael Gove has already started down this route with the four-point plan for plastics he outlined just before Christmas, and we encourage him to continue to be bold and radical.
”A whole circular resource economy approach that tackles collection, materials handling, reprocessing, production, retailing and consumer behaviour would help to deliver the benefits of smarter use and better recycling of plastics in the UK, as well as send the right signals in support of taking responsibility again for the resources we use.
“The time has come for Defra and WRAP to once again assume a leadership role on this aspect of resources policy. If the Government chooses to engage, research and act, the industry will respond.”
The association says a more interventionist regulatory approach would include:
- Mandatory recycled content for various plastic products, taking account of environmental benefits and food safety considerations
- A new programme of R&D and enhanced tax credits support for investment in manufacturing technology to support the use of recyclate as a primary input
- Mandatory design guidelines for plastic packaging products sold on the UK market
- Action through trading standards to ban certain single-use plastic products
- Reforms to producer responsibility that include incentives for the use of recycled content with levies on non-recyclable products, with any funds generated used for new communications and collections action