14 May 2020 by James Langley

UK recycling must double to hit targets, Recoup says

Reprocessing infrastructure in the UK may need to double its output of recycled plastic to meet governmental targets, research suggests.

The UK’s reprocessing capacity may need to increase by 100% to meet 30% recycled content in all household plastic packaging placed on the market and by more than 200% to meet that target for food grade rigid household plastic packaging, research by plastics recycling charity Recoup found.

A tax on plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled content is to be introduced in April 2022

The findings were published by Recoup in the charity’s latest update of its Household Plastic Packaging Sorting and Infrastructure Report, which aims to inform and provide context around the design of a tax on plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled content (see letsrecycle.com story).

Steve Morgan, policy and infrastructure manager at Recoup, said: “The research conducted by Recoup in producing the infrastructure report highlights the need for the UK to shift towards more domestic recycling, in order for the industry to be able to cope with the increasing demands for high-quality recycled plastic.

“Reforming and delivering a well-designed Packaging Producer Responsibility System in the UK is essential to deliver the infrastructure to meet a recycled content target.

“The research highlights the need for the UK to shift towards more domestic recycling”

Steve Morgan, policy and infrastructure manager at Recoup

“This would provide the underpinning foundations to ensure the necessary investment and confidence are in place for a sustainable business model to build and maintain the required recycling infrastructure for plastic packaging.”

UK plastics reprocessing infrastructure has an estimated current operational output of 230,000 tonnes, Recoup claims.

Challenging commercial conditions and fine profit margins in the plastic film, non-bottle PET and food grade packaging recycling sector are also presented by Recoup as obstacles to handling additional demand.

MRFs

However, the charity claims sorting capacity at materials recycling facilities in the UK should present no barrier to the government’s ambitions.

Recoup says the UK has an estimated annual permitted MRF capacity of between 1.6 and 1.9 million tonnes for sorting plastic packaging, and an estimated actual throughput of up to 1,000,000 tonnes.

Tax

The proposed plastics tax is to come into force in April 2022. Manufacturers and importers are to be charged £200 a tonne on packaging made of less than 30% recycled plastic.

The tax is currently in its second round of consultations, with the deadline for responses extended by three months to 20 April 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story).

The Treasury said this was to allow responses from “many sectors which have been impacted” by the coronavirus pandemic.

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