Plastic recycling charity RECOUP has highlighted the need to invest in kerbside recycling collections infrastructure and communications, following the launch of its 2017 Household Plastics Collection Survey.
Launched at the RECOUP plastics recycling conference earlier this month, the annual survey takes data and opinions from local authorities, to examine the levels of collection of plastic for recycling from UK households.
According to RECOUP, the ‘milestone’ of collecting half a million tonnes of plastics packaging from UK households has been achieved for the first time.
The 512,475 tonnes collected for recycling in 2016 consisted of over 340,000 tonnes of plastic bottles and nearly 170,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays.
The survey found that only five local authorities in the UK do not provide a collection service that includes plastic bottles as part of their kerbside collection service and 76% (298) of local authorities in the UK collect plastic pots, tubs and trays.
However, RECOUP explained that the increase of plastic bottles from UK household represents an increase of less than 1% from the previous year. The charity said new collection schemes are also ‘slowing down’ with only seven new kerbside schemes in 2016 reporting that they introduced the collection of plastic pots, tubs and trays.
In the UK, the RECOUP survey reports a collection rate in 2016 for all types of plastic bottles of 58%, with a 32% rate for plastic puts, tubs and trays.
The RECOUP survey confirms, that from nearly 160 responses, 51% of local authorities in the UK received budget cuts for providing waste and recycling collections or delivery of communications to householders about waste and recycling. RECOUP said this represents a ‘significant change’ to the results when the same question was asked the previous year – when just 13% reported budget cuts.
And, the charity said in terms of legislation, the role of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and ambitions for the future, the next 2-3 years provides ‘a window of opportunity’ for the UK.
RECOUP also highlighted the need for consistency and investment in communications to build on household recycling in the future.
There is an ongoing debate about how to increase the collection rate for plastic bottles and a potential role for Deposit Return Schemes (DRS).
RECOUP said other EU countries report to have a 90%+ household drinks bottle or PET plastic bottle collection rate by using a deposit return (DRS) scheme.
However, where high collection rates exist for plastic drinks bottles RECOUP reports that there is generally a lower overall collection rate for plastic packaging “with far lower or no recycling rates for non-drinks bottles and plastic pots, tubs and trays.”
Commenting on the potential effects of the DRS, RECOUP said: “Valpak recently published data that reports a 74% collection rate for drinks bottles consumed in the household stream in the UK, and this provides evidence that any future direction of improving plastics packaging collection rates needs careful cost-benefit analysis.”
RECOUP technical manager, Steve Morgan, added: “Making kerbside systems as good as they can be will inevitably lead to higher household plastic collection levels. Consumer communication particularly needs financial backing. The question is, over the next 2-3 years, is there the funding and real desire to carry this forward?”