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Plastic Free July stresses need for individual responsibility in cutting plastic pollution

This month, the Plastic Free Foundation is running a major global campaign, called Plastic Free July. The initiative aims to encourage consumers across the globe to reduce their use of plastic, and in particular single-use plastics, by making changes in their day-to-day habits.

The foundation has released a series of resources, including videos and posters, that aim to educate people on the damage that plastic can cause to the environment. Individuals and organisations are also being encouraged to undertake their own projects and events, such as plastic free coffee mornings, that promote using alternatives to plastic.

At Casepak we support this mission to restrict the use of single-use plastic, but we also believe that plastic recycling has a key role to play in reducing the volumes of plastic waste that we produce.

In the UK, we currently only recycle about 50% of plastic packaging, leaving the rest to go to disposal and high levels of British plastic are still being dumped abroad.

We are encouraged to see that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has acted upon these reports and is working with the Department for International Trade (DIT) to develop a more robust plastic processing infrastructure in the UK . Hopefully, these steps will not only reduce the need for exports of plastic, but also improve the recycling rate across the country.

However, while improved infrastructure may increase the facilities available to recycle plastic, the recycling rate will only increase if each person takes individual responsibility for improving their recycling practices.

At our MRF, we often find that materials are unable to be reprocessed due to contamination. Some estimates suggest that 17% of material sent to MRFs across the country is contaminated and therefore unrecyclable.

To ensure that all of your plastic products can be effectively recycled, it is important that you empty and rinse them and leave them to dry before you place them in your recycling bin. We also recommend that when recycling plastic bottles, you put the cap back on the bottle so that it does not get lost in the recycling stream.

These simple changes can make such a difference to the efficiency of recycling and allow our MRF to work at its maximum capacity. Along with government investment in recycling infrastructure and a reduction in single-use plastics, these individual actions are vital in increasing the UK’s recycling rate.

Unless we make these positive changes to our consumption and recycling habits, we will continue to pollute our environment with plastic.