Recoup calls for improved policy as plastic bottle and non-bottle recycling rates rise


Plastics recycling trade body Recoup has issued a range of policies it would like to see implemented as part of a UK plastic recycling strategy.

In its UK Household Plastics Packaging Collection Survey 2011, it confirmed previously released preliminary data that showed that 281,000 tonnes of plastic bottles were collected for recycling in 2010, which was 18,000 more than a year earlier. Plus 76,000 tonnes of non-bottle plastics were collected, which was up 36,000 tonnes compared to 2009.


In his introduction to the report, Recoup chief executive Stuart Foster wrote: “The various components of a successful UK plastic bottle recycling roadmap are falling into place, including a holistic kerbside collection infrastructure, good supporting UK and EU markets for the material generated, and support from an ever more astute supply chain whose own policies are helping to drive forward the recycling and sustainability agenda.”

However, he also outlined a range of policy measures he would like to see implemented as part of a UK recycling strategy. He added: “I have a number of key policy items that I believe should be adopted immediately into a UK plastic recycling strategy:


  • There is an urgent and immediate need to meet the demands of established UK bottle reprocessors. By 2017, the UK should aim to collect 480,000 tonnes of plastic bottles for recycling – this equates to a 70 per cent bottle recycling rate. This is very ambitious even with wide scale industry and supply chain support, but I believe it is achievable with the right investment, co-ordination and approach
  • Alongside this is the need to develop and maintain the bottle quality generated by local authorities and their contractors. I believe this means that sorting facilities must produce plastic bottle bales that meet longstanding recoup recommended contamination levels of not more than 5 per cent non-bottles
  • The collection of non-bottle plastics packaging is important and should continue. However, a by-product of the bottle quality requirements is the collection of non-bottle plastics only where sorting facilities have the necessary equipment and resource to separate this fraction, and where clear end market opportunities exist. The sorting infrastructure must be capable of effectively handling the non-bottle plastics without detriment, either financially or operationally, to the existing recycling systems
  • Local authorities must take responsibility for the end destination of all household plastics collected for recycling, and hold their service providers to account. The UK infrastructure to sort and reprocess the increasing non-bottle plastic collections is clearly inadequate at the moment, which is causing inefficiency within sorting and reprocessing facilities, and also encouraging export to markets where sorting costs are lower
  • All plastics are a potential resource and simply landfilling these materials is increasingly not an option. Energy from waste should also be reserved only for those plastics which cannot be mechanically recycled in a commercially viable way. By 2013, we will have new plastic packaging recycling targets which need to be both ambitious and realistic
  • Standardisation of collection and sorting systems may not be possible, but instructions to households need to be more consistent, whether collecting plastic bottles or a wider range of plastic packaging. Furthermore, there should be a designated dry recyclables bin colour across the UK, to be adopted as new and existing schemes replace their existing collection units. Source separated collections can adopt ‘Recycle Now’ colour coding.”