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Viridor finds favour for non-recyclable plastics tax

Almost half of the public would be willing to pay a tax on non-recyclable plastic products, a survey for Viridor has found.

The company’s annual Recycling Index found that 45% of respondents would support such a tax, varying from 47% for plastic drink bottles to 44% for black plastic food trays.

Fear of ‘oceans full of plastic’ increased from 73% in the 2017 survey to 81% now, while 68% said they were worried about plastics in the food and water they consume.

There was 78% support for a bottle deposit return scheme, up by nine percentage points from a year earlier.

The survey was taken by polling firm Edelman Intelligence among 1,879 people in Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London.

Viridor said the rising concern about plastic and ocean pollution was “a growing worry that the recycling industry should take note of”.

But there was some notable scepticism about recycling among respondents – with only 55% thinking the material collected from them was put to good use, a seven percentage points fall from 2017, and 44% believing their council simply discarded everything collected, an increase of 11 points.

The survey found 72% of the public were frustrated about not knowing what can be recycled. Among them, 53% would recycle more if all packaging had the same recycling instructions, while 61% said they were more likely to buy products with packaging made from recyclable material.

Looking to the longer term, there was more faith in recycling proving effective, with 35% believing the recycling industry would ultimately become redundant as waste was designed-out of products, a five percentage points increase since 2017.

Although knowledge about export of recyclables was limited, 80% felt the UK should find ways to deal with its waste and not export any of it.

Viridor said the results showed there was “confusion and scepticism around recycling, with consumers demanding more transparency”, and a clear need for companies to provide information and reassurance.

Managing director Phil Piddington said: “Public concern about the environmental impact of plastics continues to gain momentum in the UK, in parallel with a broader awareness of the importance of recycling generally.

“The 2018 Index shows that not only are people increasingly confused about what and how they can recycle, but they are also becoming less confident that businesses or the Government are playing their respective roles in ensuring resources are given new life.”

Piddington criticised the presence of “hundreds of different approaches to waste collection in the UK”, and urged the creation of a ”more standardised approach across local authority boundaries [which] would encourage more infrastructure in the right places and help boost economic growth”.

The Keep Britain Tidy campaign this week also called for standardised recycling systems.

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