8 April 2015 by Will Date

Defra assesses future of plastics packaging target

The government is seeking views on the future of plastics packaging targets, after research suggested that the recycling rate for the material is higher than previously thought.

A consultation paper was launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) last month, seeking views on proposed amendments to the laws governing packaging waste and waste batteries regulations, to make them more ‘cost effective’ for businesses.

Research suggests the recycling rate for plastics packaging may be higher than previously though

Research suggests the recycling rate for plastics packaging may be higher than previously though

The consultation also asks for views on the existing targets for the recycling of waste plastic packaging, which stands at 52% for 2016, and will rise to 57% for 2017. This is in light of a study commissioned by the Department following concerns that the baseline data used to measure the UK’s progress to EU packaging targets is incorrect.

The study, titled ‘Plastic Flow 2014’, was published in December and claims that over 2,260,000 tonnes of new plastic packaging were placed onto the market in 2013. This, the report claims, is around 330,000 tonnes less than the 2,515,809 million tonnes of plastic packaging that Defra had forecast for the period (see letsrecycle.com story).

Recycling rate

Consequently, the report stated, this would suggest that the UK’s overall recycling rate for plastic packaging, which was reported at around 27.4% during 2013, is likely to have actually been closer to 32% throughout the year.

In its consultation on the targets, Defra stated: “The government wishes to better understand what impact this change in understanding of the flow figure is likely to have on business’ ability to meet its legal obligations.

“We would therefore be interested in collecting information on costs and benefits of keeping the current targets, reducing the targets, or delaying achievement of the 2016 and 2017 targets. No decision has been made about whether or not to change the plastic target. Any information provided will help to inform our assessment and decisions on next steps.”

Elsewhere the government is also asking for views on where the Packaging Regulations can help local authorities to meet the 2020 household waste recycling target of 50%.

It adds: “The PRN system provides some indirect subsidy for local authorities recycling packaging waste. The 2013 breakdown of PRN revenue subsidy suggests that around a third of the £111 million total revenue was used to support the collection of household, and commercial and industrial packaging, whilst less than 0.5% of the total PRN revenue was spent on communications strategies.”

The consultation runs until May 22.

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