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Governments should ‘act urgently’ to boost recycling market

plastic recycling

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has called on countries across the world to implement taxes on single-use plastics, invest in waste collection infrastructure and stimulate markets for recycled material.

A report published by the OECD said the global plastics recycling rate was just 15%, and that this would not increase unless markets for secondary materials improved.

It said recycling was often priced out by cheaper virgin material. It called for a range of measures including stronger incentives, better design of products to improve recyclability and separate collections for materials.

The report also suggests “heavier taxes” on the manufacture or use of products such as single-use plastic bags, cutlery or drinking straws.

A Treasury consultation on taxing single-use plastics led to UK recyclers calling for tax on virgin material.

The OECD said: “The price of recycled plastics is largely driven by the price of primary plastics, which follow oil prices, rather than the costs of collecting, sorting and processing plastic waste. Producers of recycled plastics thus have few options to adjust their costs in a downturn.

“The plastics recycling sector is smaller and more fragmented than the primary industry, leaving it at a significant disadvantage in terms of economies of scale and its ability to absorb market shocks, such as the recent collapse in oil prices.”

A report published by the Environmental Services Association also called on the UK Government to strengthen end markets for recycled materials. It warned that EU targets under the circular economy package will be missed unless investment is made to increase recycling infrastructure.

The OECD governs rules on transboundary movements of waste destined for recovery operations between member countries. Its report will be presented at the May 29-31 Global Forum on Environment: Sustainable Plastic Design in Copenhagen.

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