The Government could develop a secondary materials market that would enable an extra two million tonnes of plastic to be recycled within the UK.
That claim has come in a report by the Green Alliance for the Circular Economy Task Force.
It said two-thirds of UK plastic collected for recycling was exported – a route that is becoming problematic because of China’s import restrictions.
But 71% of the raw material needed by UK manufacturers of plastic packaging and products could be provided from recycled materials.
The report argued that the Government has focused only on recycling targets, which ‘push’ material into the waste management system. This failed to develop a market for the collected plastic, which wasted materials, led to pollution and caused an over-reliance on virgin materials.
The Green Alliance said there should be mandatory recycled content requirements for all plastic products and packaging, short-term Government support to kickstart the plastic reprocessing market and a market stabilisation fund to de-risk investment.
Dan Cooke, Viridor director of regulatory affairs, said: “There’s now a real opportunity for the Government to deliver an ambitious strategy, backed by effective regulation, to stimulate sustained demand for recycled content in the UK.
“This is absolutely vital to unleash innovation and enable further investment in essential recycling infrastructure to supply our industries and economy in the years ahead.”
Chartered Institution of Wastes Management chief executive Colin Church said the industry was ready to play its part in changing the way that plastics are used and managed: “But it cannot act alone – it needs the right policy framework and the right partnerships to allow it to bring its skills, energy and imagination to bear.”
WRAP director Peter Maddox called for “circular systems for plastics and other materials that are sustainable both economically and environmentally”.
The Green Alliance also examined the secondary steel market, which it said had the potential to cut iron ore imports by 40% and carbon emissions from steel production by about 30%.
It also found that rare earth materials in discarded products could supply more than a third of domestic demand, and up to half in the case of cobalt.
The Circular Economy Task Force members are: Aquapac, Boots, Kingfisher, Kyocera Document Solutions, Viridor and WRAP.