Only a third of UK consumers' plastic packaging is recycled
23 November 2016
Only a third of plastic packaging used in consumer products is recycled each year, with almost two-thirds sent to landfill or incinerated, according to new research.
Of the 1.5m tonnes of recyclable plastic waste used by consumers in Britain in 2015 only 500,000 tonnes was recycled, according to the figures compiled by Co-op from the Recoup UK Household Plastics Collection survey.
This figure means that the recycling of plastic is considerably below the national average for recycling; currently 45% of recyclable goods are recycled each year.
Recycling groups said the problem was largely caused by consumer uncertainty about what items could be recycled, as well as the lack of provision of recycling services by local authorities.
“Most people recognise a plastic bottle as something you can recycle,” said Steve Morgan, technical manager at plastic recycling charity Recoup. “The recycling rate is about 60% for plastic bottles but when you start talking about other products, plastic pots and tray – a yoghurt pot, a margarine tub – the recycling rate is far lower.”
Consumers were most diligent with recycling plastic bottles, with people recycling 7.5b out of 13b (57%) plastic bottles used by UK households each year. However, only about 30% of all plastic pots, tubs and trays were recycled.
The worst offender was plastic film products, which include carrier bags, pasta and rice bags, and the film on ready meals, only about 3% of which were believed to be recycled in 2015. This is largely due to the fact that just 80 Local Authorities around the country (20%) provide a recycling service for the collection of these materials.
Iain Ferguson, the environment manager at Co-op, 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.”
Recycled plastic products can be turned into a range of other things including plastic furniture, football shirts, sleeping bags, bumpers for cars and building products.
“There’s plenty more material that the waster and resources industry want to get hold of. This material is increasingly being used as a resource, it can be recycled into very high-end products,” said Morgan.
There has been a considerable increase in the amount of plastics recycled across the EU in the past decade. Between 2006-2014 there was a 64% increase in recycling of plastics and a reduction in landfill caused by plastics of 38%.
“The general message is that the amount of plastic packaging in landfill has decreased, it’s a huge success story of the last 20 years,” said Morgan. “But so much more can be done. There’s plenty of material that comes through the household that ends in the bin.”
Source : theguardian.com