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Bold ideas to boost ‘shockingly low’ plastics packaging recycling in the UK

United Kingdom – Two-thirds of all plastic packaging used for consumer products in the UK is being sent to landfill or incineration with only half a million of the 1.5 million tonnes of recyclable plastic waste created every year being recycled, according to the Co-operative Group.

The data means that the recycling of plastic is considerably below the national average for recycling; currently 45% of recyclable goods are recycled each year, so argues Recoup UK Household Plastics Collection.

It points out that consumers recycled 57% of plastic bottles used by UK households each year, while less than 30% of all plastic pots, tubs and trays were recycled in 2015. Recoup stressed that only 3% of plastic film products were recycled last year.

One of the main problems is the lack of knowledge about which packaging can be recycled, while local authorities don’t have enough recycling facilities to treat the material. This is the reason the Co-operative Group wants 80% of its packaging to be recyclable by 2020 – a ‘bold’ target it is urging other retailers to embrace too.

‘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,’ comments Co-op environment manager, Iain Ferguson. ‘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,’ he suggests.

‘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,’ notes Lee Marshall, chief executive officer at the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee. ‘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,’ he adds.

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