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Plastic waste strategy evolving after public concern

Fast–track changes to the current packaging recovery note (PRN) system, increased recycling targets for plastic packaging and stronger political support to help local authorities deliver greater consistency in household collections are being urged on ministers to tackle plastic waste.

2000 marcus gover

2000 Marcus Gover RWM 2016

An open letter from Marcus Gover, chief executive of WRAP, sets out progress responding to a call from environment secretary Michael Gove for outline proposals to reduce the damage caused by plastic waste, notably packaging, which accounts for 70% of that waste.

Ministers have been under pressure from the media and pressure groups to cut the blight.

Gover has worked with Paul Vanston, chief executive of INCPEN, the packaging industry council, to consider actions needed by business, the Government, citizens, local authorities and recyclers to do so.

His letter indicates widespread support for reforming the current packaging producer responsibility regime.

“This would mean proposing fast-track changes to the current PRN system to improve packaging environmental outcomes, including for plastics,” he says.

Proposals include increasing the recycling targets for plastic packaging and splitting the targets by plastic type, as is done with metals grades.

“We need a common position on what we think are ambitious but achievable targets. There will be a balance to be had here. If we are not radical enough, our proposals will not be acceptable to the Government or the public,” said Gover.

A series of workshops will be held ahead of a summit in April to agree a final set of recommendations.

Consistent collections of material at home, at work and on-the-go are seen as essential for recycling more plastics and preventing them blighting the environment.

Gover suggests further work is needed to consider the collection of plastic films from households and recycling away from home. He also calls for stronger political support for the Framework for Greater Consistency, developed to improve household recycling transition, and expects this to come in Defra’s forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.

“Further engagement with waste management companies will be needed to look into the changes needed at sorting, recycling and waste treatment plants,” the letter states.

Businesses are urged to commit to the newly announced sector, which is the first national implementation of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy. Major retailers, brands and plastic packaging suppliers would sign up to:

  • Eliminate unnecessary and problematic packaging and plastic products
  • Ensure all plastic packaging is practically recyclable (not just technically possible)
  • Use recycled plastic in packaging and products where possible

A high-profile launch with the founding signatories is planned for the spring.

Gover concludes: “We can only make progress if we all work together – plastic producers, packaging manufacturers, food and drink manufacturers, retailers, brands, local authorities, waste companies, recyclers and governments. Paul [Vanston] and I look forward to fruitful, future co-operation with you, and we are keen to have wide involvement in this process.”

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