Kerbside collection of plastics 'not enough' to meet recycling targets

The provision of kerbside collection infrastructure alone will not allow the UK to reach its 2013-2017 plastics packaging recycling targets, according to a new report from Recoup.

WRAP image of mixed plastics

WRAP image of mixed plastics

The report, entitled UK Household Plastics Collection Survey, provides an in-depth review of the infrastructure in place and informs stakeholders on the core raw data and information such as current plastics packaging collection levels, recycling rates, collection methods and practices, and performance against the UK 2013-2017 plastics packaging recycling target.

According to the research, with 96% of local authorities providing a kerbside collection scheme for dry recyclables that includes plastic bottles, the average plastic bottle collection rate per household has only experienced modest increases in recent years and has plateaued.

“This is evidence that the provision of kerbside collection infrastructure alone will not allow the UK to reach the 2013-2017 recycling targets,” Recoup stated. “The barriers to increased collection need to be clearly identified and addressed, to ensure all householders are using the service provided for dry recyclables, and that all plastic bottles and as many other plastics requested by the local authority are placed in the recyclables collection container.”

The UK is now in the first year of the government’s  five-year recycling targets for packaging waste for 2013 to 2017, and the UK’s recycling performance will be judged on increasingly tough targets, and the real focus is on plastics packaging.

Recoup said that extensive profiling work has been completed in Valpak’s Plasflow 2017, which it has contributed to. This maps the flow of plastics packaging from consumption through to end markets in order to develop a range of compliance scenarios to meet the 2017 plastic packaging recycling targets (42%). The 2017 scenario stated it is estimated that 1,213,000 tonnes of plastics packaging will need to be recycled by 2017 to meet UK targets.

The report also stated: “Although this is for plastics packaging from all sectors, it does provide an indication of the collections needed from UK households to meet the 2017 42% recycling target.

“If the 2012 split between household (69%) and non-household sources (31%) of the total plastics packaging recycled is applied to the target of 1,213,000 tonnes in 2017, there would be 836,970 tonnes of plastics packaging that needs to be collected from UK households - almost double the current 440,401 tonne collection level.”

The research also suggests that investment in infrastructure for sorting technologies is now happening. However, it also states that end markets need to be developed to provide the necessary drivers for both implementing a collection for pots, tubs and trays and an outlet for the material that is already collected. 

Elsewhere, the study suggests that there is strong opinion that more packaging recovery note (PRN) monies should be invested in collections.

The 2013 Survey has been supported by the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC). Policy officer Dave Thomas said: “The importance of collections by local authorities are essential in helping industry meet the new plastics recycling targets. There is a clear lack of investment from PRN monies in collections, both in terms of infrastructure but also increasing the quality of the material collected.”

Liz Gyekye


| Infrastructure | packaging


Waste & resource management
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