The challenge of recycling plastics films and flexibles has long been debated, with collection, material sorting and end markets all needing development, investment, and energy to transform the circular outcomes for this plastic format, according to RECOUP.
It says there is ‘no question’ that significantly much more household plastic film must be recycled if ambitious targets for plastic packaging recycling as outlined in Defra consultations are to be met.
It says that to be able to collect the material kerbside is almost certainly the ‘most effective approach’ and that there are enough research reports and international evidence to indicate that collection and sorting of household films and flexibles is possible.
There are, however, a range of views regarding sensible timescales for implementation, who pays and how much.
RECOUP says solutions should be provided through the packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) reform, and collection consistency measures and hopes to hear more from Defra on this before the end of the year, with a plan that drives the opportunity forwards from 2024 while addressing the concerns raised through recent consultations.
Carole Taylor, Chair of LARAC, commented: “The collection of plastic film and flexibles will be a challenge to local authorities if the sorting and end markets are not in place to be able to deal with the material collected.
“Ensuring the infrastructure is available to deal with films and flexibles is the first really important step which will give confidence to councils to be able to collect this material in a way that suits their local area.”
The collection of plastic film and flexibles will be a challenge to local authorities if the sorting and end markets are not in place to be able to deal with the material collected.
RECOUP add there is a need for a coordinated industry led UK demonstration for recycling plastic films and flexibles at scale to prove which approaches work for UK kerbside systems, and to give confidence that the reprocessing and end market demand for this material exists and is developing.
Robbie Staniforth, Innovation & Policy Director, Ecosurety, said: “There are many obvious challenges with increasing the amount of flexible plastic packaging recycled, such as the varying nature of the material.
“However, the concerted industry focus in this area has opened up an array of opportunities for collecting, sorting, and reprocessing. With the Government citing the introduction of mandatory household collections in the coming years, the Flexible Plastics Fund provides funding to scale up reprocessing in the interim.”
Stuart Foster, CEO, RECOUP added “The recent developments in front of store film collections are very welcomed as a short to medium term solution and we will continue to support our retailer members with their initiatives.
“It will help provide confidence in quantities of recyclable material available, test end markets and provide additional confidence in planned investments, help citizens to become more familiar with film recycling behaviour, plus encourage the wider adoption of design for recycling by producers.”
RECOUP has set aside a full session at their Conference on 30th September dedicated to the topic.