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BPF targets plastics recycling upturn within the UK

United Kingdom – The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has launched a new proposal to ‘encourage and incentivise the use of recycled plastics in UK manufacturing’. Despite rapid increases in collection rates, UK recycling has ‘little better than flatlined’ in recent years, according to the BPF.

To date, the existence of a largely undemanding, unregulated export market for plastic waste, aided by an ‘inequitable’ Packaging Recovery Note (PRN)/Packaging Export Recovery Note (PERN) system, has undermined confidence in investment in the plastics recycling sector, says the federation. The latter does not motivate any players in the sector to remove contamination prior to overseas shipment, ‘giving exports an advantage against UK reprocessing’, it is argued.

Simple mechanism

Better results could be achieved if, unlike with virgin polymers, recycled polymers carried no obligation under the EU Packaging Directive, it is contended. ‘This mechanism would be both relatively simple to administer and cost neutral for the UK government, and would serve to further drive the use of recycled plastics in a sector where there is already a proven pathway,’ explains the BPF.

According to the federation, there has been notable success in certain streams such as plastic bottles. And it underlines that the UK’s recycling rates for plastic packaging are among the best in Europe and the world. But importantly, packaging recycling targets have been largely achieved to date through exports of plastic waste, the federation points out.

The China factor

The total volume of recovered plastic exported to China for recycling amounted to 684 000 tonnes in 2010, according to recent estimates by the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). ‘This is the equivalent of approximately 100 containers leaving the UK every day,’ notes the BPF.

Roger Baynham, chairman of the BPF’s Recycling Group, comments: ‘We believe that the proposals contained in this paper will provide the much-needed traction to develop end markets for recycled plastics which are so crucial given the uncertainties of the global waste markets and, in doing so, help deliver the UK government’s business development, wealth creation and sustainability agendas.’

The entire proposal can be read at: www.bpf.co.uk

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