Luke Hall issued his plea during a debate in House of Commons this week (27 June), where he described lightweight soft plastics such as crisp packets, bread bags and chocolate wrappers as “one of the most common forms of recyclable plastics used in Britain”.
Mr Hall hailed private sector retailers including Tesco and the Co-op for having rolled out soft plastic collection points “at their own expense”.
However, he added: “Good practice is happening, but in local authority areas such as South Gloucestershire, residents living in rural villages and those with limited mobility can find it difficult to access soft plastic recycling points, which are often located in towns and in hard-to-reach places.
“A wider-ranging initiative is therefore needed to ensure greater accessibility for everybody in the community.”
Just 17% of councils provide a soft plastic waste collection service, Mr Hall claimed.
He said South Gloucestershire council had submitted a bid to be to FlexCollect, a pilot project launched in May to provide financial support for nine local authorities to roll out kerbside collections in trials over a three-year period (see letsrecycle.com story).
Mr Hall asked for recycling minister Jo Churchill’s support for the bid, saying he was “desperate” to see collections rolled out.
In response, Ms Churchill thanked Mr Hall for raising the “important issue of soft plastic recycling”. She pointed to the announcement contained within the consultation on extended producer responsibility for packaging that plastic film would be collected from “every home and business in the UK” by 2027 (see letsrecycle.com story).
“The starting gun has been fired,” she said. “Including plastic film and flexible packaging in kerbside collections will make things much easier and much more convenient for our householders and businesses.
“Until then, supermarkets and others in the private sector are performing a key role by providing further opportunities for in-store collection of plastic film for recycling.”
Ms Churchill said she agreed that a “wider-ranging initiative such as kerbside collections” was needed to ensure people in rural areas were able to access facilities and recycle their soft plastics.
She said she was “truly delighted” that South Gloucestershire had submitted a bid for FlexCollect.
Ms Churchill added: “I encourage all councils to express their interest in the project. To ensure that the project is as beneficial as possible in informing the roll-out of plastic film collections on a national level, it will need a good cross-section of local authorities to make it a success.”
Chris Skidmore, Conservative MP for Kingswood, echoed Mr Hall’s plea during the debate, describing soft plastic recycling as “the future”.
He said: “We have done so much both as a government and in local authorities on looking at how to recycle hard plastics, but my constituents in Kingswood consistently ask me why they cannot recycle plastic bags and plastic material, which make up an overwhelming proportion of our waste.
“It seems so futile to be throwing it into landfill. We have the opportunity for every local authority – not just South Gloucestershire – to take this forward.”
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