Government cut recycling targets for plastics industry

18th February 2017 | Recycling

Recycling targets in the UK were cut last year after successful lobbying from the plastics industry. This has been revealed after a freedom of information request by Greepeace.

The Government came under fire last year after it announced that targets for plastic recycling would be reduced from 57 per cent to 49 per cent for 2016. This would then be increased by 2 per cent a year to 2020, when it would reach a maximum of 57 per cent.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) at the time insisted the change was brought in.  This is “to reduce the burden on business.” The cut reportedly resulted in thousands of tonnes of plastic being sent to landfill, incinerated or dumped.

British Plastics Federation

Greenpeace found that it was not small businesses, but the British Plastics Federation (BPF) which had pressured the Government. Greenpeace said companies expressed concerns that higher target might force them to stop using plastics.  And those which were hard to recycle or to increase the recycled plastic used in their products are of greatest concern.

Ariana Densham, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, had something to say. “It mirrors the approach which we’ve seen exposed recently, of companies like Coca-Cola lobbying against the introduction of bottle deposit return schemes and increased recycling rates.

“Those profiting from throwaway plastics are abdicating responsibility for the end life of their products.  While blaming consumers for their environmental impact on land and sea.”

Greenpeace obtained 62 of 63 responses to a Government consultation on recycling targets. Fifteen of the respondents were lobby groups.  A further ten were producers of plastic products. All but one of those 25 responses pushed for a reduction in recycling targets.

According to Recycle Now, UK households use 480 plastic bottles a year but only recycle 270 of them. This means that of the 35 million plastic bottles used each day, 16 million are not recycled and the use of plastic bottles is rising.

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