Reduced Oil Prices Cause Concern For Plastics Recycling Sector

The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has expressed its concern at the impact of reduced oil prices in the UK Plastics Recycling Industry. 

Areas of plastics recycling are becoming uncompetitive, according to the BPF, and this is threatening not only the viability of businesses but also, potentially, the recycling record of the whole supply chain.

The BPF is calling on companies in the downstream supply chain, when considering their materials selection policies, to keep to the fore the fact that high recycling targets have to be met under the Packaging Waste (Producer Responsibility) Regulations and that many individual Corporate Social Responsibility programmes support increased recycling levels.

BPF Director-General Philip Law said: “The carbon saving and resource efficiency benefits of plastic products has been enhanced by the increased levels of plastics recycling seen today.

BPF Director-General Philip Law – “That the carbon saving and resource efficiency benefits of plastic products has been enhanced by the increased levels of plastics recycling seen today”

“Plastics recycling is an essential component of the whole chain’s sustainability message and we should not allow our record to regress”

Defra Resources Minister Dan Rogerson MP renewed its commitment last week to the voluntary agreements that have driven progress in collection and recycling of rHDPE plastic packaging by ensuring minimum recycled content in plastic packaging, especially plastic milk bottles.

This follows a meeting convened by Rogerson on 18th March at which he gathered representatives from waste, resources and plastics industry associations, the retail sector, major brand owners and WRAP for an urgent discussion of the issues.

Ray Georgeson, chief Executive of the Resource Association, also expressed concern that some of the “major players” in the supply chain have switched back to virgin polymer.

Ray Georgeson, chief Executive of the Resource Association said: “Dan Rogerson’s intervention this week was timely and necessary and we are grateful to him for his critical attention to the problems that plastics reprocessors are facing as a result of low oil prices and the switch back to virgin polymer by some of the major players in the supply chain.

Ray Georgeson, Resource Association – “We recognise that there are cost pressures on all parts of the supply chain, but at the moment, the most vulnerable part of the supply chain – the reprocessor – is carrying the cost burden and most of the risk”

“The meeting heard many general messages of support for the continued use of recycled content in line with the commitments made under the Dairy Roadmap and Courtauld Commitment, facilitated by WRAP. However, these were not backed by specifics in the meeting and frankly, warm words are not enough.

“We call on all the signatories of the Dairy Roadmap and Courtauld Commitment to honour their commitments to recycled content, but this now means more is needed than merely a general statement of intent – it needs an urgent switch back to specifying rHDPE with immediate effect.

“We recognise that there are cost pressures on all parts of the supply chain, but at the moment, the most vulnerable part of the supply chain – the reprocessor – is carrying the cost burden and most of the risk.

“A long term view is needed, and a reminder of the sustainability commitments made by retailers and major brand owners is now necessary, along with this urgent appeal to take the long view, stand firm with the reprocessors, help them weather the storm and protect this vital UK recycling infrastructure for many years to come.

“If we lose it for the sake of 0.1p on the cost of a standard plastic milk bottle, not only will it be a hole under the waterline for the voluntary approachtaken by WRAP, Government and the industry, it will make all the warm words about sustainability and the circular economy sound very hollow.

“Given that the supply chain has already had the windfall and benefit of huge cost savings from the reduced cost of virgin polymer for the 70% of product that is virgin content, surely 0.1p on the cost of a milk bottle is not a high price to pay for the sustainability of the UK rHDPE recycling infrastructure?”


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