Only one third of UK’s plastic food packaging is recyclable, study finds

3rd August 2018 | Recycling

Only one-third of the plastic food packaging used in the UK can be recycled, local authority chiefs have revealed. New analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) indicates 525,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays are carefully set aside by residents for their local recycling collection each year.

But only 169,145 tonnes is recycled, meaning two-thirds of plastic container waste gets incinerated or thrown into landfill.

The LGA said frustrated councils are doing all they can to tackle the problem, and blamed manufacturers for producing a “smorgasbord” of different plastics to package microwave meals and other products at the supermarket. Judith Blake, the LGA’s environment spokeswoman, called on Theresa May’s government to bring in a ban on “low grade” plastics that are particularly hard to recycle.

“It’s time for manufacturers to stop letting a smorgasbord of unrecyclable and damaging plastic flow into our environment,” she said. “That needs to happen urgently, but the government should now consider banning low-grade plastics, particularly those for single use, in order to increase recycling.

“If manufacturers don’t want to get serious about producing material which can be recycled, and protecting our environment, then they should at least contribute towards the cost that local taxpayers have to pay to clear it up.”

The government is currently reviewing the producer responsibility system determining how much manufacturers pay towards the cost of the UK’s recycling system. Environmentalist groups think producers should be paying much more to boost collection and facilities.

Yet the packaging producers say they need help to change, arguing the UK’s recycling infrastructure is simply not good enough at the moment. Plastic packaging is made from a variety of polymer types, which need to be carefully separated out to allow for recycling. And the separation of plastic taking place at materials recovery facilities is not always comprehensive enough to give producers the high-quality recyclable pellets needed to create new packaging.

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