“Too Much” Plastic Material Not Collected For Recycling

plastics-recycling-RECOUPOver 492,000 tonnes of plastics packaging was collected from UK households in 2014/15, an increase of around 30,000 tonnes or 6% on the previous year, according to the 2015 UK Household Plastics Collection Survey.

The survey, funded by RECOUP, has reflected the changes in the estimated quantity of plastic packaging placed on the market. When measuring these against the quantities collected for recycling it can be confirmed the collection rate for plastic pots, tubs and trays has now increased to 30%. The collection rate for plastic bottles is 57%.

Steve Morgan, RECOUP – “The new pack will provide aligned communications activity and a consistent set of messages around plastics collections, providing all the resources needed for local authorities and businesses to run a plastics recycling consumer communications campaign”

Whilst plastic bottles continue their modest and steady trajectory with a 3.5% increase (11,500 tonnes), plastic pots, tubs and trays have increased by over 12% (16,700 tonnes). With continued increase in service provision and collections of this plastic format, pots, tubs and trays now make up 30% of the total collections of rigid plastic packaging from UK households.

Steve Morgan of RECOUP commented: “With the overall recycling rate for rigid plastic packaging at 44% there is too much material that is not collected for recycling. This lost material highlights again the importance of communicating regularly and effectively with consumers, particularly that plastics can be recycled from all rooms around the home.”

There are significant costs to this lost material. With disposal costs for the plastic bottles not collected for recycling estimated to be £25m, and costs for disposal of pots, tubs and trays estimated to be anywhere between £37m and £53m, there is much more work to be done to increase collection levels.

Recycling Communications

Dwindling budgets have been felt by many local authority departments and “working in partnership” and “streamlining” are common terms that seem to be frequently used. These are not only to provide cost savings and practical benefits, but politically demonstrates joined up thinking and value for money for decision makers and residents alike.

Questions were asked in the 2015 survey about how collections and consumer communications were aligned with other authorities.

With over 250 Local Authorities responding there appears to be more alignment, or awareness of alignment, around the consumer communications (37%) than the collection services themselves (26%), and collecting the same materials in the same way seems to be the underlying positive catalyst for change.

Plastics Recycling Targets

With around 60% of the total plastic packaging recycled coming from households, there is still a heavy reliance on increasing local authority collections, not only to meet the UK Governments 2017 plastic packaging target, but wider changes on a EU level are on the horizon.

With new ambitious European legislation and targets expected before the end of 2015, it is anticipated that there will be a significant shift to sustainable, resource efficiency, and circular economies across Europe.

Plastics Collaboration

The need to promote existing collection services and engage consumers’ through positive behaviour change is at the core to tackling these ongoing ambitious targets and circular economy aspirations.

The recent Pledge 4 Plastics collaboration with Recycle Now provides a solid foundation to promoting plastics recycling. It was confirmed at the RECOUP conference on 24th September there will be now one set of resources in a new Plastics Recycling Resources Pack that will be jointly hosted on the Pledge 4 Plastics and Recycle Now websites.

Steve Morgan of RECOUP stated: “The new pack will provide aligned communications activity and a consistent set of messages around plastics collections, providing all the resources needed for local authorities and businesses to run a plastics recycling consumer communications campaign.”

There remains a hunger for local authorities to run plastics recycling communication campaigns, but financial support is needed to run effective campaigns and provide central funding to progress the ambitions and work of Pledge 4 Plastics.

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