The Waste & Resources Action Programme – WRAP– has drawn up outline proposals as to how the UK could respond and “reduce the environmental damage” caused by plastic waste usage and disposal.
In a widely-distributed letter, WRAP chief executive Marcus Gover reveals how the resources charity has teamed up with the packaging organisation INCPEN to develop work on a ‘strategy’ with other ‘stakeholders’, including councils and the recycling sector. Plans include increasing the use of recycled content in products and the development of sorting and recycling of plastic packaging.
WRAP’s latest interest in plastics recycling comes after the charity, which is substantially funded by Defra, was pushed by environment secretary of state Michael Gove before Christmas 2017 to come up with a comprehensive set of outline proposals from stakeholders on plastics recycling and packaging.
This happened up after Mr Gove was confronted with concerns about plastics in the oceans and that China’s restriction on imports of used plastics would hit the UK. China in the past has been the dominant destination for UK recovered plastic, accounting for almost two-thirds of the UK’s exports.
WRAP’s latest action on plastics follows other similar announcements by the organisation that it would improve recycling and end-markets.
It comes 10 years after WRAP’s Mr Gover revealed a target to develop 500,000 tonnes of mixed plastics reprocessing capacity by 2018. Mr Gover said at a meeting in 2008: “We want to move mixed plastics from not currently recycled to widely recycled. Since the Closed Loop facility, further plants are now being built without support. It’s happening with bottles so it can happen with mixed plastics.”
The same meeting in 2008 (see letsrecycle.com story) also heard retailer Tesco saying that it was interested in ideas such as introducing a minimum recycled content.
“We can only make progress if we all work together – plastic producers, packaging manufacturers, food and drink manufacturers, retailers, brands, local authorities, waste companies, recyclers and governments”
chief executive, WRAP
And, Mr Gove’s strategy letter also comes almost three years after WRAP started work with the British Plastics Federation (BPF) on the PIRAP plastics industry recycling action plan which included work on end markets and the optimising of sorting infrastructure. The BPF was not chosen as WRAP’s partner on the latest programme, with INCPEN securing that role.
And, in the strategy work there appears to be no place at present for direct involvement of the Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP) which has made recommendations for changes to the PRN system, crucially with regard to export PRNs. There is a lot of pressure on government to adjust the PRN system to better support domestic reprocessing of plastics rather than overseas reprocessing (see letsrecycle.com story ). The largest compliance scheme, Valpak, has also recommended changes to the PRN system, including support for public campaigns on recycling (see letsrecycle.com story).
Mr Gover’s letter suggests that PRN changes are likely. He writes: WRAP and INCPEN spoke to a range of stakeholders “across the value chain” who suggested that there was “widespread support” for change to the current packaging producer responsibility regime. “This would mean proposing fast track changes to the current PRN system to improve packaging environmental outcomes, including for plastics.”
The message of encouraging retailers and manufacturers to “Use recycled plastic in their packaging and products where possible”, is the last of seven proposed actions listed by Mr Gover in his strategy letter.
However, the failure to drive demand for recycled plastics for use by UK manufacturers is a major problem for waste management companies looking for materials markets, letsrecycle.com has been told. One senior waste management company commodities chief said: “Companies are still not bothering to use recycled plastic. Why aren’t all hair shampoo bottles, for example, made from a percentage of recycled plastic?”
WRAP also reiterated its call for a common set of materials to be collected from all households across England, including plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays. However, it outlined that further work is needed to consider the collection of plastic films from households and recycling away from home.
Mr Gover emphasised that everyone needs to work together in order to make progress. He said: “We can only make progress if we all work together – plastic producers, packaging manufacturers, food and drink manufacturers, retailers, brands, local authorities, waste companies, recyclers and governments.
“We gratefully ask leading organisations in the packaging supply chain, local government, waste & resource management, and reprocessing sectors to freely pass this letter on to your members and partner organisations.”