Public calling for increased plastics recycling in the UK

New research shows that 91% of UK adults believe the importance of increasing the amount we recycle will grow over the next five years and that the key area to focus our efforts on is plastics recycling.

Currently only 9% of the plastics worldwide are recycled but if all plastic was recycled then we could save 30-150 millions tonnes of carbon annually.

This means that if we recycle plastics we avoid the 61% contribution of plastics emissions. The public is calling for more sustainable solutions and to focus on plastics recycling.

The research also showed that 56% of people believe that there is ‘too little’ information on recycling.

Although different councils have different waste rules, Defra’s Resources and Waste Strategy will set out to simplify this through the harmonisation of waste collection associated with a clear labelling system which is a much needed step for creating a fully functioning circular and sustainable system.

When asked, the survey also found 40% of people said their plastic consumption has decreased in the last year; only 44% of people tend to recycle textiles; 48% tend to recycle food waste; and only 41% tend to recycle e-waste.

Tim Duret, Director of Sustainable Technology, Veolia UK and Ireland said: “81% of UK adults said they were confident in their knowledge of what is recyclable and so as an industry we need to enable that action.

81% of UK adults said they were confident in their knowledge of what is recyclable and so as an industry we need to enable that action.

“We are ready to invest in domestic infrastructure, to process more materials, develop technology to recycle different types of plastics and to boost the circular economy, cutting the nation’s carbon emissions and doing our environmental duty.”

Veolia has been developing plastics recycling technology: from its Dagenham facility which keeps 300million high-density polyethylene (HDPE) milk bottles in a circular loop each year, to helping to resolving the black plastic issue by pioneering the use of a new detectable black pigment for HDPE bottles.

This black pigment meant they can be detected by recycling plant scanners and sorted for recycling leading to around a further 2,500 tonnes of plastic bottles potentially being sorted and sent for recycling each year.

“We have to keep material functional, simple and sustainable,” said Duret. “The Environment Bill will enshrine in law the need for greener practices and incentivise manufacturers to eco-design their products through various measures such as the extended producer responsibility scheme and the deposit return scheme which will in turn make the recycling process easier and more accessible.

“It is therefore essential that the Plastics Packaging Tax and the Resources and Waste Strategy go ahead without delay, so the nation can meet our sustainable targets and do the planet justice.”

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,018 adults.

Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th – 25th January 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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