Public confusion about what plastics packaging can be recycled is in part down to cuts in local authority communications budgets, according to plastics recycling charity Recoup.
Recoup’s 2018 survey found that conflicting national media messages, language barriers and people ‘just not getting it’ were the main reasons behind the confusion.
Cuts to council budgets mean many cannot run education campaigns. Around 600,000 tonnes of rigid plastic packaging is not being collected in the UK, according to estimates.
Common items causing confusion identified by Recoup included: toothpaste tubes, pill blister packs, bubblewrap, cleaning products, trigger and pump sprays, bottle tops on or off, black and coloured plastics, film lids and absorbent layers.
Nearly 100% of councils were interested in a match-funded partnership to deliver a plastics recycling communication campaign. Some 49% were already planning a campaign and, of these, 91% were targeting reducing contamination.
Recoup technical manager Steve Morgan said: “Although plastic bottles have seen the biggest increase in collections for three years, with volatile export markets the drive for quality is needed throughout the plastics recycling value chain. The opportunities are there.”
He added: “Consumers are often unaware how they can make a difference by their individual actions, both by what plastics packaging they can recycle in their local area and how to present it for recycling.
“There is still work to be done to develop reliable markets for some fractions of plastics, and to remove some of the discrepancies within the detail of how pot and tray recycling messages are given to the public.”
Last year 527,010 tonnes of plastics packaging was collected from UK households for recycling. Some 59% of plastic bottles and 33% plastic pots, tubs and trays placed on the market are collected for recycling.
Just four local authorities did not include plastic bottle recycling in their kerbside schemes but were planning to introduce it by 2019. Nearly 80% of authorities collected plastic pots, tubs and trays in their kerbside schemes.
Recoup’s national plastics recycling project ‘Pledge 4 Plastics’ provides resources for consumer-facing communication campaigns.