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UK hits 500,000 tonnage recycling milestone

The UK has for the first time collected half a million tonnes of plastics packaging from households in a single year. The 512,475 tonnes total for 2016 was made up of over 340,000 tonnes of plastic bottles and nearly 170,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays.

A survey by Recoup of local authority household plastics recycling collections in the UK has revealed a 2.7% increase in the tonnage of plastic packaging collected from households over the previous year, to 512,475 tonnes.

But there was a small drop in the average yearly amount of plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays collected per household, from 19.88kg to 19.84kg.

Recoup, the not-for-profit organisation promoting plastics recycling, says only five local authorities in the UK now do not include plastic bottles as part of their kerbside collection service, while 298 collect plastic pots, tubs and trays.

The survey, covering more than 70% of UK collection authorities in the 2016-17 financial year, found that half reported a cut in their budget for waste and recycling collections or related communications to householders.

There is concern that plastics may not be prioritised by local authorities driven by weight-based targets – and increasingly a challenge as the packaging industry moves to ‘lightweighting’ its products.

Stuart Foster, Recoup chief executive, said: “Changing the targets, changing the metric of the targets, or increasing the financial support through increased producer responsibility are all valid considerations which have been tabled many times before, but not led to any change.

“There is a growing sense that this will not be the case this time around, with the need to increase plastic packaging recycling being a key focus for politicians, media and the producer supply chain itself.”

The survey also found that 13% of councils were looking at moving to three or four-weekly residual waste collections.

Of the 13% that changed the frequency of their collections over the past three years, all said this had reduced costs.

In addition, 81% said it had led to increased collection of recycling materials, and 57% said the quality of material collected had improved.

Recoup highlighted Bury Council for saving £800,000 through changing to a three-weekly collection.

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