Recycling value of plastics plummets due to poor quality

The deteriorating quality of plastic collected for recycling is costing local authorities £10M each year, owing to a reduction in the sale value of the material, according to a leading plastics recycler.

ECO Plastics is concerned that local authority spending cuts could further reduce the quality of recycling collections and that, ultimately, councils could face a yearly bill of £20M to landfill the poorest quality materials which cannot be recycled.

In 2008 a typical bale of collected plastics arriving at ECO Plastics' Hemswell recycling facility contained 95% plastic bottles. Today, this figure stands at 80% or lower and means that councils are receiving £40 less for every tonne of plastic they collect.

With the number of plastic bottle collections growing year-on-year, council losses are expected to exceed £10M in 2011. ECO Plastics is now calling for a "back to basics" approach in a bid to improve quality and help councils maximise the value of this resource.

ECO Plastics' managing director, Jonathan Short, said: "Plastic bottles are far and away the most valuable, highest quality plastic recyclate. In recent years we have seen a significant drop in the bottle-content of our baled raw material.

"The UK's nascent recycling infrastructure is being made to work harder to reach the required level of quality, not least for use in food-grade recycled packaging. Local authorities are missing out on easy money at a time when every penny counts."

Short added that during the past year, bales of plastic arriving at the Hemswell facility contained an average of 8% non-recyclable plastic, with black plastic trays ¬- which cannot currently be recycled cost effectively - the biggest offender.

He feels that an increase in the number of councils offering a mixed plastics collection service is the main source of the problem. "Black plastic trays were not evident in our recyclate three years ago - my concern is that the householder is placing trays in the recycling bin whilst bottles are being lost to landfill."

Maxine Perella


cuts | food | packaging


Waste & resource management
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