Churchill outlines steps to boost plastic recycling

Recycling minister Jo Churchill has outlined the steps the government has taken to increase the domestic capacity for processing soft plastics.

Ms Churchill said that, in England, the government was taking “significant steps” to increase UK plastics recycling, as well as “delivering the conditions for further private sector investment”.

Plastic recycling
Jo Churchill was appointed recycling minister last year

The recycling minister responded yesterday (13 January) after Labour MP Ruth Jones asked on 5 January what steps the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was taking to increase the UK’s domestic capacity for disposing flexible plastic waste.

Also on 13 January, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for science, George Freeman, highlighted how upcoming legislation will increase domestic plastic recycling in response to Labour MP Chi Onwurah.

Legislation

Ms Churchill said that the Plastic Packaging Tax, which comes in from April, will see a charge of £200 per tonne on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content, “and measures such as the deposit return scheme and consistent collections will help ensure a consistent supply of high-quality material for recycling”.

She explained: “This continues to be a priority for the department, and officials will continue to engage with plastic recyclers to identify other suitable routes to promote their important work.”

Chemical recycling

The recycling minister also said the government had invested in chemical recycling projects to help deal with hard-to-recycle flexible plastics.

She stated: “The government-funded UK Research and Innovation Industrial Strategy Challenge invested £20 million into four UK plastic reprocessing facilities to develop new technologies to recycle plastic.

Plastic recycling
The comments came in response to Labour MP Ruth Jones

“Three of these projects include the development of chemical recycling plants which turn difficult to recycle plastic waste – such as plastic films – back into oil which can be used to replace virgin oil for use in new plastic products.”

ReNew ELP, Recycling Technologies, Poseidon Plastic, and Veolia were among the projects to be awarded funding (see letsrecycle.com story).

Funding

On the same day, Mr Freeman responded to two questions from Ms Onwurah on plastics.

The first asked what steps the government was taking to increase the proportion of plastics consumed in the UK which were either manufactured or recyclable in the UK.

The second, which received the same answer, asked what steps he was taking to support research into new zero carbon methods of producing plastics in the UK.

Like Ms Churchill, Mr Freeman also pointed to investment in projects which the government says will boost recycling.

He said: “For example, the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge, with £60m of funding from UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and matched by £149m from industry, is supporting academic-led research to address known problems and to support industry-led collaborative research and development of new technologies, de-risking innovative plastics sustainability projects, and delivering over 230kt per annum of additional recycling capacity.”

The Plastic Packaging Tax will stimulate increased levels of recycling

  • George Freeman, Conservative MP

EPR

Mr Freeman also said that upcoming EPR legislation would incentivise businesses to design and use packaging that is easier to recycle, and increase the recycling of packaging waste.

He added: “Finally, the UK Plastic Packaging Tax will be introduced from 1 April 2022 to encourage the use of recycled plastic in packaging, and in turn stimulate increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste, diverting it away from landfill or incineration.

“It is estimated that this will lead to an increase in the use of recycled plastic by 40% in 2022-23.”

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