Stuart Foster, CEO of RECOUP, expresses his concerns over the activities and actions – or lack of them – in 2016 that could potentially shape the next decade or more in terms of opportunities for the UK’s plastics recycling industry.
From uncertain post-Brexit impacts on markets and legislation, company acquisitions and reprocessor administrations, to intensifying packaging scrutiny, collection system reviews and a continued lack of investment in consumer education; plastics recycling is in transition.
The EU provided a policy landscape in this sector that was stable and effective for business and environmental development.
If a circular economy package is a good idea, we now look to UK government to make sure a plan is implemented to give us the resource and recycling roadmap we need. The requirement to protect resources and work towards circular economy goals does create an interesting debate over the best environmental approach for plastic packaging. We need to optimise recycling and draw more attention to our design for recycling guidance to maximise the environmental benefit. There is a real need for the circular economy movement to help RECOUP to continue leading the plastic recycling agenda, and ensure circular economy thinking moves beyond recycling.
For some time now, the UK has been ahead of the European plastic packaging recycling target of 22.5 percent. In 2015, the data shows the UK recycled 891kt, which was driven by UK packaging recycling and recovery targets placed on the producer supply chain. An estimated 60 percent is from household sourced plastic packaging, including bottles, pots, tubs and trays, as reported in the annual RECOUP collection survey. The remainder is mostly films from commercial and industrial sources.
By extending the plastic packaging recycling targets to 2020, DEFRA has allowed the time needed to install the necessary infrastructure, alongside changing recycling behaviours and improvements in pack recyclability. The potential for more plastic recycling is undeniable, and RECOUP and its network is determined to work together to take plastic recycling to greater heights. This and more topics will be covered in our annual Plastics Recycling Conference, where the whole of the plastics supply, use and recycling chain will come together to discuss and debate the issues important to the industry and all its sectors.
Stuart Foster is the CEO of UK-based recycling organisation, RECOUP. Foster will be speaking at the association’s annual conference at KingsGate Conference Centre, Peterborough, on 29th Septmeber. For more information, visit www.recoup.org/conference-2016