Chris Dow, CEO of Closed Loop Recycling, discusses the success of its “We Need Your Bottles” campaign, and explains why Closed Loop still needs your bottles
CIWM Journal Online Exclusive
Back in 2012 we launched our “We Need Your Bottles” campaign to raise awareness throughout the waste and recycling supply chain of the benefits of recycling more plastic bottles, not just for the environment but also for green job creation and the wider UK economy.
Our call was met by the whole industry and now 96 percent of local authorities provide a kerbside collection scheme for dry recyclables that includes plastic bottles, and investment in updated recycling infrastructure has allowed an ever greater number of bottles to be recycled for future use in packaging and more.
However, whilst large numbers of the British public continue to recycle each week, the average plastic bottle collection rate per household has only experienced modest increases in recent years and has now plateaued at around 58 percent.
“…whilst large numbers of the British public continue to recycle each week, the average plastic bottle collection rate per household has only experienced modest increases in recent years and has now plateaued at around 58 percent”
The cause of this plateauing is subject to much discussion within the industry. We recently conducted our own research into the recycling habits of UK householders which revealed there’s little doubt people are still keen to recycle. 86 percent of people claimed to recycle “as much as possible” and 13 percent “some of the time”.
But most said they needed to know more from their local authorities about the good work of recyclers and where their carefully sorted recycling ends up, with 80 percent saying they would become more committed recyclers if they knew their waste was being recycled here in the UK and ending up as new packaging on supermarket shelves.
What this research shows is there certainly seems to be a continued need to promote the “We Need Your Bottles” message much wider, not just to the British public but to all those in the supply chain with responsibility for collecting, sorting, reprocessing and repackaging our resource material.
The barriers to increased collection need to be clearly identified and addressed, to ensure all householders are using the service provided for dry recyclables, and that all plastic bottles and as many other plastics requested by the local authority are placed in the recycling bin.
Whilst 2014 holds some uncertainty for local authorities and their contracted waste companies as they seek to understand the implications of TEEP on their commingled collections, as a leading UK plastic recycler our message is “We STILL Need Your Bottles”.
“…the UK’s 229,000 tonnes of currently unrecycled plastic bottles remains an untapped economic resource, worth an average value of £25m based on current mixed bottle values”
We believe both local authorities and the waste companies – particularly those that solely collection plastic bottles – should use the revised Waste Framework Directive and their TEEP justification as an opportunity to collect more bottles; perhaps by increasing bin capacity for recyclates and/or by introducing twin stream commingled recycling systems in order to grow volumes and improve quality.
The UK’s plastic bottle recycling infrastructure has been designed around commingled collections, with state of the art technology able to sort different polymer types and eradicate contamination in order to turn used bottles into new material for food and drink packaging. A classic circular economy model.
Not only that, the UK’s 229,000 tonnes of currently unrecycled plastic bottles remains an untapped economic resource, worth an average value of £25m based on current mixed bottle values. Put it another way – if these bottles are not recycled the potential landfill disposal cost would be £19m, a financial burden to local authorities.
There is a strong education message for the public too, who need to be encouraged to recycle more bottles as simply as possible. They need to be better informed about which items can be recycled and what happens to their plastic bottles once they are collected from the kerbside.
These simple measures will go a long way towards countering the plateau effect.
The UK has made great strides in closing the loop on waste and also supporting the sustainability of the circular economy. Recycling more plastic bottles is not just for the environment but also for green job creation and the wider UK economy.
If we want to maximise our existing recycling infrastructure and provide greater confidence for investors to fund new infrastructure in the future, as a nation we need to keep up the good work we have already started.