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Strong secondary markets key to tackling gulf in plastic recycling

This month a report presented by the Resourcing the Futures Partnership has highlighted the crucial role that the UK’s secondary commodities market can play in tackling the problem of plastic waste. The report calls for a co-ordinated multi-sector response to create a strong market for secondary plastics.

The report highlights the numerous contexts in which plastics are used, acknowledging their many benefits and outlining the need for a comprehensive approach to eliminating unnecessary waste from our economy.

In particular, the scale of the problem means that the challenge of dealing with plastic waste should not be the sole burden of the waste and resources sector, but rather must involve all stakeholders across the supply chain to improve sustainability and reform the way that products are manufactured and dealt with at the end of their life. A number of very sensible measures are proposed, including:

The report is welcome news indeed. As a recycling company we would certainly welcome the wider involvement of stakeholders from different sectors to improve the recyclability of plastic products.

The diversity of plastic products proves problematic for waste processors. Different grades of plastic must be sorted and processed in different ways, while the use of additives such as different colours means that certain plastic materials are at best difficult to process, and at worst completely unviable for recyclers.

The value of secondary plastics to the UK economy has long been overlooked, but a separate report earlier in June by the Green Alliance shoed that if domestic infrastructure can be expanded, recycled plastics could provide 71 per cent of the raw materials needed by UK-based manufacturers of plastic products. This change is vital if the nation is serious about its goal to move towards a circular economy and reduce the environmental harm that plastics pollution is wreaking on our oceans and ecosystems.

At Casepak, we have one of the most technologically advanced Materials Recycling Facilities in the UK, which is capable of sorting and processing a high volume of plastic waste. Nevertheless, it is vital that all companies in the value chain work together to design products that are easier to recycle mechanically. For example, clear PET and HDPE plastic can always be recycled, so encouraging more producers to adopt these materials for packaging would make recycling easier – both for consumers and waste processors alike.

It is often the case that certain types of plastic are simply not economical to recycle, but by stimulating the secondary commodities market for plastic, such as by encouraging businesses to use

a higher volume of recycled plastic, resource efficiency can be improved and a clear economic imperative to process more plastics will be developed.

There is no doubt that plastic is a wonderful material with myriad applications, but it is high time the companies responsible for producing many of the products that end up as plastic waste were involved in finding solutions to the plastics problem.