Only a third of UK consumers’ plastic packaging is recycled

29th November 2016 | Recycling

Only a third of plastic packaging used in consumer products is recycled each year, with almost two-thirds sent to landfill or incinerated, according to new research. 1.5m tonnes of recyclable plastic used in Britain in 2015 and only 500,000 tonnes were recycled: these figures are from the Recoup UK Household Plastics Collection survey.

The national average for recycling currently stands at 45%: plastic recycling is considerably below this figure. Recycling groups said the problem was largely caused by consumer uncertainty about what can and cannot be recycled. They also claim there is a lack of recycling services by local authorities.

Steve Morgan, technical manager at plastic recycling charity Recoup, said, “Most people recognise a plastic bottle as something you can recycle. The recycling rate is about 60% for plastic bottles, but when you start talking about other products, plastic pots and tray – a yoghurt pot, a margarine tub – the recycling rate is far lower.”

Consumers were found to be most diligent, with recycling plastic bottles, with people recycling 7.5bn out of 13bn (57%) plastic bottles used by UK households each year. However, only about 30% of all plastic pots, tubs and trays were recycled.

The worst category was plastic film products, which include carrier bags, pasta and rice bags, and the film on ready meals, only about 3% of which were believed to be recycled in 2015. This is largely due to the fact that just 80 Local Authorities around the country (20%) provide a recycling service for the collection of these materials.

Ian Ferguson, the environment manager at Co-op, said, “It is shocking that such a small percentage of plastic packaging is being recycled, especially materials that are already so easy to recycle, like plastic bottles. We are concerned that so much still goes to landfill every year. We need to stop thinking about this plastic as a waste and start to use it as a resource.”

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