Re­cy­cled plas­tic could sup­ply three-quar­ters of UK de­mand, re­port finds

The Guardian Australia - - Environment - San­dra Lav­ille

Plas­tic re­cy­cled in the UK could sup­ply nearly three-quar­ters of do­mes­tic de­mand for prod­ucts and pack­ag­ing if the gov­ern­ment took ac­tion to build the in­dus­try, a new re­port said on Thursday.

The UK con­sumes 3.3m tonnes of plas­tic an­nu­ally, the re­port says, but ex­ports two-thirds to be re­cy­cled. It is only able to re­cy­cle 9% do­mes­ti­cally.

Mea­sures in­clud­ing in­creased taxes on prod­ucts made with vir­gin plas­tic, and manda­tory tar­gets for us­ing re­cy­cled plas­tic in pack­ag­ing, could en­cour­age an ad­di­tional 2m tonnes of plas­tic to be re­cy­cled in the UK, the re­port from Green Al­liance said.

The anal­y­sis said sim­ply col­lect­ing plas­tic and send­ing it abroad for re­cy­cling does not solve the prob­lem of the global scourge of plas­tic pol­lu­tion.

“The UK does not have an ad­e­quate sys­tem to cap­ture, re­cy­cle and re-use plas­tic ma­te­ri­als,” the re­port said.

It rec­om­mends three new mea­sures to en­sure more plas­tic is re­cov­ered in the UK and used as raw ma­te­rial in man­u­fac­tur­ing. These are:

Manda­tory re­cy­cled con­tent re­quire­ments for all plas­tic prod­ucts and pack­ag­ing;

Short-term sup­port to kick­start the plas­tic re­pro­cess­ing mar­ket; and

a fund to sta­bilise the mar­ket for com­pa­nies in­vest­ing in re­cy­cling plas­tic do­mes­ti­cally.

Green Al­liance pro­duced the re­port for a group of busi­nesses that have formed a cir­cu­lar econ­omy task­force.

Peter Mad­dox, di­rec­tor of Wrap UK, said the UK had to take more re­spon­si­bil­ity for its own waste.

“Our mis­sion is to cre­ate a world where re­sources are used sus­tain­ably. To make this hap­pen in the UK, we need to de­sign cir­cu­lar sys­tems for plas­tics and other ma­te­ri­als that are sus­tain­able both eco­nom­i­cally and en­vi­ron­men­tally. This will re­quire some fun­da­men­tal changes from all of us.”

The re­port said gov­ern­ment ac­tion is nec­es­sary to cre­ate and sup­port a sec­ondary plas­tic mar­ket in the UK. “The gov­ern­ment is uniquely placed to ad­dress the mar­ket fail­ures that have led to un­nec­es­sary reliance on vir­gin ma­te­ri­als to the detri­ment of the en­vi­ron­ment, in­dus­try and the econ­omy.”

UK busi­nesses in­clud­ing su­per­mar­kets re­cently signed up to a pact to cut plas­tic.

But vol­un­tary pacts were not enough, the re­port said, and gov­ern­ment ac­tion was needed.

“A sec­ondary plas­tic mar­ket ... could re­cy­cle an ad­di­tional 2m tonnes in the UK and ful­fil 71% of UK man­u­fac­tur­ing’s raw ma­te­rial de­mand ... Vol­un­tary ini­tia­tives like the UK plas­tic pact ... only thrive when sup­ported by a cred­i­ble prospect of gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion if in­dus­try does not de­liver.”

Pho­to­graph: Me­di­aWorldI­mages/Alamy Stock Photo

Re­cy­cled plas­tic prod­ucts: the UK does not have an ad­e­quate sys­tem to cap­ture, re­cy­cle and re-use plas­tic ma­te­ri­als, the re­port found.

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