More than half of councils (52%) are experiencing issues with plastic markets as a result of restrictions on plastic imports imposed by China and some neighbouring countries, a survey has found.
Plastics recycling body Recoup said nearly half of those councils also reported that the market values of plastic materials had been affected.
It said the survey, which received responses from around 50 English councils, showed they were struggling to dispose of their plastic in an environmentally efficient and cost-effective way.
Since China announced that it would ban the import of post-consumer plastics last year, the market for plastic packaging has shifted. The UK turned to other countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Poland for disposal, but these countries have also now tightened their import restrictions, leaving fewer markets willing to accept the UK’s used plastic.
Recoup’s report, Local Authority Plastics End Market Analysis, found that although there is an increased interest from consumers in recycling, they are increasingly recycling plastics that are not target material or not presenting them in an optimal way, for example by removing excess food.
It said current systems were not able to handle the diverse and complex nature of the material being collected.
Councils collecting only plastic bottles stated they would like to continue with this system because values for this material have remained stable.
The Government has recently closed four consultations on ways to accelerate change in how the UK funds, structures and manages its waste materials. Recoup says the development of UK-based end markets should be a central component of this.
Technical manager Steve Morgan said: “Through innovation to create new and better markets, development of state-of-the-art recycling facilities to use recycled plastics in manufactured products, the UK can become world leaders in plastic resource management.”
This story first appeared in MRW sister title Local Government Chronicle