Recycling company Eco Plastics has said that the quality of plastic collected in the UK is deteriorating rapidly.
The company stated that this means local authorities are losing around £10 million each year due to a reduction in the sale value of the material and that councils could face a bill of £20 million each year to landfill the poorest quality plastic.
It said that as recently as 2008, a typical bale of collected plastics arriving at its Hemswell recycling facility contained 95 per cent plastic bottles. But now only 80 per cent of the material is bottles, which represents the plastic with the most value. In fact, Eco Plastics said that councils are losing £40 per tonne as a result of the decline in quality.
Eco Plastics is able to process mixed plastics, but is calling for a back to basics approach to improve the quality of the material.
Managing director Jonathan Short said: “Plastic bottles are far and away the most valuable, highest quality plastic recyclate. Our plant can process 300,000 bottles an hour, but in recent years we have seen a significant drop in the bottle content of our baled raw material. The UK’s nascent recycling infrastructure is being made to work harder to reach the required level of quality, not least in food-grade recycled packaging. Local authorities are missing out on easy money at a time when every penny counts.
“For plastics recycling, the solution is very simple and we can all make a contribution by ensuring that every plastic bottle we use is returned to the system. This includes ‘upstairs’ bottles such as those used for shampoos and cleaning products as well as those consumed outside the home.”
He added that the company has seen an increase in the amount of non-recyclable plastic it receives, especially black plastic trays. He said this is probably due to more councils offering mixed plastics collections, allowing more contamination as a result.
“The UK is developing a plastic recycling infrastructure that is the envy of Europe,” he said. “This is one of the advantages of having embraced recycling later than our European neighbours. Local authorities offering mixed plastics collections are at the front of the pack and this represents the way we must ultimately develop, but not just yet.
“The historic drive for quantity has to stop. We must first maximise the best quality, most valuable resource available to us. It’s time to go back to basics and ensure that all plastic bottles in the UK are saved from landfill.”