Only half a million of the 1.5m tonnes of recyclable plastic waste created every year is being reused as intended. The problems lie with a lack of knowledge about which packaging can be recycled, along with local authorities lacking the facilities to deal with it, the Co-op says.
The retailer has launched an ambition to have 80% of all its packaging recyclable by 2020 and is calling on other retailers to follow its lead on developing new packaging and working with local authorities to improve recycling levels.
Lee Marshall, LARAC – “Packaging plays an important part in protecting products and preventing waste but when it has served its purpose we need to be able to recycle as much as possible.”
Iain Ferguson, Co-op environment manager, said: “It is shocking that such a small percentage of plastic packaging is being recycled, especially materials that are already easy to recycle like plastic bottles. We are concerned that so much still goes to landfill every year.
“We need to stop thinking about this plastic as a waste and start to use it as a resource. What is needed is a co-ordinated response to the problem. This should start with retailers and major brands listening to recyclers and developing packaging that is better for recycling.
“Our long term ambition is for ALL packaging to be recycled where it can be, and we are making a bold start by setting a target that, by 2020, 80% of our products will have packaging that is easy to recycle.”
Lee Marshall, chief executive officer at the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) said: “Packaging plays an important part in protecting products and preventing waste but when it has served its purpose we need to be able to recycle as much as possible. Having more consistent packaging makes it easier for local authorities to put in place the systems to collect it and to communicate with their residents. The sort of ambition being shown by the Co-op is great to see and we hope it acts as catalyst for the whole industry.”
The Co-op says it has already re-designed and simplified plastic packaging to make it easier for consumers to recycle and is working with local authorities to share best practice. It is now calling on other retailers to follow suit by developing new packaging to improve recyclability.
The Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan (PIRAP) is an ideal forum for this work, and the Co-op is urging other retailers to follow its lead in signing up to support this initiative.
The Co-op has also called for the introduction of clear labelling to differentiate items that recyclers can’t use to make it easier for consumers and recyclers.