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

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie