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Plastics sector sets out recycling strategy

A strategy to boost plastic recycling and keep more secondary material in the UK has been launched by the British Plastics Federation (BPF).

The call to arms has four key elements (more detail below):

  • Splitting recycling targets between domestic and non-UK markets
  • Higher quality standards
  • Funding to boost innovative technologies
  • Specific policies for procurement in public bodies and large corporations

Chairman of the BPF recycling group (BPFRG) Roger Baynham said the aim was to increase recycling in the UK. The strategy followed consultation with senior industry figures.

“By focusing on keeping a valuable waste stream in the UK, refining the feedstock available to recyclers and encouraging the move towards a commercial environment that produces plastic products that are easier to recycle in the first place, the UK plastics recycling sector will get the tools it needs to help exceed its recycling targets and move towards a more sustainable future,” he said.

Baynham’s group will be collaborating with the Plastics Industry Recycling Group (Pirap) on the issues, including an assessment of which barriers prevent certain plastics from being recycled.

Split plastic packaging recycling target

In its 2014 manifesto, the group proposed that recycling targets should be split between plastic packaging waste remaining in the UK and Europe, and that which went elsewhere. The policy is maintained but, after the Brexit vote, the BPF believes the split should be between waste staying and leaving the UK.

Investment fund for new technologies

New technology can overcome barriers that prevent the viable recycling of certain materials. Dedicated funding would allow new technologies to become commercially viable and particularly benefiting the development of pots, tubs and trays (PTT) recycling. More comprehensive PTT recycling would make a significant contribution to the UK’s 57% plastic packaging recycling target by 2020 because, currently, only 30% is recycled.

Develop standards for plastic feedstock

Plastic reprocessors undertake additional sorting before low-quality feedstock can be recycled. The BPFRG is calling for standards for all plastic grades, with UK reprocessors and exporters taking only acceptable material. The group wants to explore existing work, such as the Recycling Quality Information Point from the Resource Association, to see how it could be used as part of the standards. It also supports consistent collection of plastics to drive up quality.

Recycled content procurement

Requiring public bodies and large companies to include secondary materials in the procurment process would provide stable end markets and boost confidence in the sector. There would also be an opportunity to widen the range of products with recycled content. These products could then allow the public to see the circular flow of plastics and value of the material, motivating them to recycle.

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