Untapped Potential For Household Plastics Says RECOUP Survey

plastic-wasteDespite a slowing down in household plastic collection rates, RECOUP has said it “remains upbeat about the potential for growth through further infrastructure development, consumer engagement and supporting policy” following the results of its latest UK Household Plastics Collection Survey.

The survey, which you can access at the bottom of this page, outlines the collection of household plastics in the UK. Supported by LARAC, it takes data and opinion from local authorities and informs those working across the plastics supply and recycling chain who have responsibilities or interests in developing the plastics recycling opportunity.

Its author, Steve Morgan, revealed that a total of 499,625 tonnes were collected for recycling from UK households, consisting of 340,000 tonnes of plastic bottles and just under 160,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays. This represents an overall increase of just over 1% from the previous year. “RECOUP had hoped to report that more than half a million tonnes of plastic packaging was collected for recycling from UK households in 2015, but collection level increases have slowed,” he said.

Collection quantities and service provision aside, the opportunities for increased collections are clear. The collection rate for plastic bottles is under 60%, with the rate for plastic pots, tubs and trays is 30%. With most local authorities in the UK providing a collection service for plastic bottles, the number of new collection services for non-bottle material is also slowing down. It was reported that 74% of local authorities in the UK collect plastic pots, tubs and trays and 20% collect plastic film as part of their kerbside collection service.

Harmonisation – The Way Forward?

plastic-bottles-recycling-sign-mobiusThe quantity and quality of the material from the collection systems needs support and funding, and with ongoing budget restrictions this could be harder to achieve, RECOUP reports. Steve Morgan added: “The positive benefits of joint working appears a logical step to provide cost savings, practical benefits, and value for money – pooling resources, equipment, knowledge and expertise, ideally through centralised contract procurement all seem to hit the spot.”

In the 2015 Survey questions were asked about whether local authorities believed waste collection services were harmonised with other regions, with just 26% thinking their collection services were aligned with other authorities. The 2016 Survey reports 52% of Local Authorities believed recycling collections were aligned with other authorities. The key target for improvement focusses on standardising the material collected, with 80% of these stating alignment of material or plastic types collected.

Treatment of Residual Waste

The 2016 survey found there was a comprehensive knowledge of the treatment of residual waste collected by local authorities, with 97% stated they knew about the treatment of the waste. The reported destination of residual waste was 34% to landfill, 34% to EfW, 16% to RDF and 16% to recycling. It was unsurprising that landfill and EfW were the highest destinations for residual waste. The recycling result in particular raises many questions, and RECOUP are interested in gaining an understanding about the end destinations of this material and how this fraction is reported.

Facts & Stats

Some of the most interesting facts included in the 2016 survey include:

  • Since 1994 there has been over 63 BILLION plastic bottles collected for recycling – that’s almost 3 million tonnes
  • Since 2007 there has been nearly 850,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays collected for recycling

In 2015, the collection data shows:

  • Nearly 7.5 billion plastic bottles were recycled in 2015 – that’s over 20 million bottles every day
  • 5 billion plastic bottles were not collected to be recycled by UK households – that’s over15 million plastic bottles every day
  • An average UK household uses nearly 500 plastic bottles a year, but only recycles just over half of them

You can download the survey in full her

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