A new report from Green Alliance has found the untapped opportunities for the UK to source most of its plastic demand from recycling.
The policy document is a call to create a stronger recycling market in the UK rather than the government’s current policy of simply increasing collection rates. This leads to very high exports, running at two thirds of all plastic, while the country only recycles 9 percent of the material domestically.
Creating the right policies and a secondary market to increase recycling within the UK could be a major boon to the economy. The report estimates that 71 percent of the demand for plastic packaging could be provided by recycled material.
The report recommends three new policies to address the issue of plastic exports. These include ensuring all plastic products and packaging have a mandatory level of recycled content; short-term subsidises to stimulate the market; and a fund to reduce risk among investors.
The government also needs to create a long-term strategy which will provide the level of certainty and reliability which will bring major manufacturers into the game. Establishing such circular economy principles can also have a major impact on the economy, creating thousands of jobs and billions in economic value.
Libby Peake, senior policy adviser on resources at Green Alliance, said: “If the UK wants to lead the world in addressing the global scourge of plastic pollution that means creating a circular economy at home that allows us to turn discarded plastics back into new products. Just collecting plastic and shipping it abroad doesn’t solve the problem.”
The issue of exporting plastic to be dealt with elsewhere has become acute since China banned foreign imports earlier this year on various different waste products. So far, this has led nations, such as the UK, to look to other markets, such as south-east Asia, to deal with their plastic waste, or to simply increase incineration rates.
Peter Maddox, director of sustainability charity WRAP said: “The time has come for the UK to take more responsibility for its own waste.”
“The UK government has shown ambition in its 25 year environment plan and has a great opportunity through the forthcoming resources and waste strategy to ensure that the policy framework enables a thriving and commercially successful UK recycling sector to capture the value from waste here at home,” he added.
Photo Credit: Peter Facey/CC
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