Recycling and waste management firm, Viridor, has called on the UK to address its “reprocessing capacity gap” for plastics, if it is to achieve future recycling targets and move towards a “truly circular economy.”
The need for action was highlighted by Viridor Resource Management managing director, Keith Trower, today after the company issued its 2018 Viridor Recycling Index. This week, the growing concern for plastics has reached an “all time high,” according to the report, where “four in five” respondents believed the UK should be finding alternative methods to deal with its own recycling, instead of exporting it to other countries.
The document also cited that 83% of respondents said they would be encouraged to increase their recycling activities, if they knew it would be utilised to produce renewable energy. Meanwhile, 75% of people surveyed said they understood the term “Right Stuff, Right Bin” and 45% were willing to pay additional tax on non-recyclable plastics.
Mr Trower said: “We need to support the circular economy. The fact that China closed its doors creates a huge opportunity for investment and manufacturing in Europe.
“We cannot send the plastic to landfill and we should aim to minimise non-recyclable plastics used for energy recovery. There are not any collective markets as big as China for export, so effectively the plastics we were exporting now have to be processed in Europe and the UK. This requires government support.”
Adding to Mr Trower’s views, Phil Piddington, managing director of Viridor, commented: “Public concern over the environmental impact of plastics continues to gain momentum in the UK, in parallel to a broader awareness of the importance of recycling generally.
“The 2018 Index shows that not only are people increasingly confused over what and how they can recycle, they’re also becoming less confident that businesses or government are playing their respective roles in ensuring resources are given new life,” adding that Viridor is working closely with retailers and packaging manufacturers to make products, such as plastics, more recyclable.”
Mr Trower stated that a form of PRN reform could address “market volatility” through guaranteeing a minimum fixed price PRN value equitable to the cost of processing the material.
He explained: “This would give reprocessors the certainty needed to make a more informed decision on the viability of large scale investments and, therefore, not only promote recycling capacity but also promote UK infrastructure and business in the face of Brexit.
“Several leading brand owners are known to be looking at ways that they can increase the recycled content within their packaging products. One of the barriers in achieving their ambitious voluntary targets is the availability of suitable capacity within the UK market.”
A number of retailers have individual targets in place for making their packaging more recyclable. Coca-Cola, for example, has pledged to recycle 40% of its materials in packaging by 2020, while L’Oreal said 100% of its packaging will be rechargeable, refillable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Similarly, P&G is aiming for a target of 50% within the same year as L’Oreal, said Viridor.
“Ultimately, we need more consistent collections, we need to continue to educate and engage the public on plastics recycling, and we need more recycled plastics going into domestic manufacturing,” Mr Trower commented. “With effective EPR & PRN reform and with clear government support, our sector stands ready to deliver the vital additional services and infrastructure required.”