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Ambitious report calls for UK to go beyond EU recycling targets

The National Infrastructure Commission has published its first National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), a report which seeks to provide advice to Government on long-term infrastructure challenges over the coming decades. 

The report sets out a range of recommendations for the waste and recycling sector and proposes how we should use our resources in the future. The NIA calls on the UK Government to set an ambitious municipal recycling target of 65 per cent by 2025, to provide a low-carbon future for the UK by ‘incinerating less and recycling more’. 

Casepak welcomes the ambitious scope of the report, which argues that “England should not settle for the minimum standards set out in EU legislation but should seek to be amongst the best performers.”  

The NIA claims that creating a more circular economy, where materials are re-used and kept in use for longer, could save local authorities a total of £6.2bn between 2020 and 2050 by reducing residual waste disposal costs and mitigating the need to build additional disposal infrastructure. In addition, the report calls for the Government to set a plastic packaging recycling target of 75 per cent by 2030, going beyond the targets set out in the EU’s Circular Economy Package (which became law on 4 July), and calls for separate food waste collections to divert biodegradable waste to anaerobic digestion and away from incineration. 

It also sets out plans to establish: 

At Casepak, we are pleased to see the NIA calling for ambitious targets on resources and waste policy, and we wholly support the aim for everyone to do more to reduce waste, improve resource efficiency and recycle more.

The availability of funding will certainly be crucial in bringing about the changes the NIA is calling for, such as the roll-out of separate food waste collections and investment in the anaerobic digestion plants needed to treat additional waste arisings.

However, the key to improving recycling rates is twofold: firstly, making it simpler and less confusing to recycle by implementing clearer labelling, providing more education to the public about what can and cannot be recycled, and implementing consistent recycling systems across England to spread best practice.

Secondly, more must be done to minimise waste in the first place and make it easier to recycle materials. Improving product design, so that hard to recycle materials (e.g. PVC and polystyrene) are replaced with easier to recycle materials and unnecessary packaging is removed, is essential to reduce waste volumes.

It is therefore vital that all stakeholders in the value chain, from designers and manufacturers through to consumers and the recycling sector, are consulted. Adoption of the NIA’s recommendations would represent significant progress towards a more resource efficient, circular economy, but the responsibility for implementing these changes cannot fall on the waste and recycling sector alone.

To read the full NIA report, please click here.