Plastic recycling rates boosted by lockdown, RECOUP finds

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Veolia household collections

Plastic recycling rates have jumped due to more people working from home, RECOUP’s UK Household Plastics Collection Survey has found.

Up until March 2020 from April 2019, the survey showed that plastic recycling rates had only increased by 2%.

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But with more people working from home, schooling at home, less travel and less on-the-go food consumption has let to more plastic being collected in local authority collections.

RECOUP policy & infrastructure manager Steve Morgan said: “Local authorities report an increase in excess of 20% of recycling in the first lockdown period, evidence which has been backed up by RECOUP members Veolia which has seen a 10% increase in kerbside plastics collected this year.

“This is a sizeable increase on figures from the 2020 RECOUP Plastics Collection Survey report which showed only a 2% increase in collection rates during 2019.

“With more people being at home and many changing their ways of working during 2020, initial figures do suggest that when people have the easy access to be able to recycle plastic that they choose to do the right thing.”

RECOUP citizen & stakeholder engagement manager Anne Hitch added: “We must not fail to make the most of the opportunity we have been given and continue to engage with citizens to drive recycling rates even further, and help them understand how, by doing their bit in their own homes, they are reducing plastic pollution and giving plastic the opportunity to be kept in the loop. It is crucial we make the most of driving sustained behaviour change while we move onto the new norm.”

For the period April 2019 to March 2020, RECOUP found that the collection rate of plastic packaging was:

  • Plastic bottles – 59%
  • Plastic pots, tubs and trays- 33%
  • Plastic film – 7%
  • All household plastic packaging – 39%

Tim Duret, director of sustainable technology, Veolia UK & Ireland

Tim’s view

2020 has seen a change in our waste flows as people are spending a lot more time at home than previously, and Veolia has seen a 10% increase in kerbside plastics collected compared to the year prior.

It is clear that people are making an effort to recycle more, with the results from RECOUP showing that we are going in the right direction with plastics recycling growing, we need a larger increase and we need this faster.

What remains critical is that we back up our environmental responsibility with legislation to create impactful change.

The Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy and Plastics Packaging Tax will provide the financial drivers for manufacturers to eco-design their products, increasing recycling and simplifying the process, keeping materials in a circular loop.

This will also inspire a forecast £10bn of investment from the waste sector over the next ten years, allowing for greater innovation and development of domestic infrastructure which together will increase recycling, reduce carbon emissions, create green jobs and preserve biodiversity.

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