RECOUP says UK plastic recycling infrastructure needs to double by 2022

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Plastic recycling
Sorting recycled plastics

RECOUP’s Household Plastic Packaging Sorting and Infrastructure Report has found that UK plastic recycling infrastructure needs to double by 2022 in order to recycle the available material.

With the Treasury due to implement the Plastic Packaging Tax in April 2022, the report looks at how a 30% recycled content on plastic packaging can be achieved at this point.

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RECOUP shows in the study that the sorting capacities at materials recycling facilities (MRF) and plastic recovery facilities (PRF) is not a barrier to meeting the 30% target.

This is because there is an annual permitted MRF capacity of between 1.6 million and 1.9 million tonnes for sorting plastic packaging, and an estimated annual throughput of up to 1 million tonnes.

However, there is a significant shortfall in reprocessing capacity with an estimated current operational output of 230,000 tonnes. It noted that there are also particularly challenging commercial conditions and fine profit margins in the sector, with very specific operational and technical challenges around reprocessing plastic film, non-bottle PET and food grade packaging.

When RECOUP compared the reprocessing capacity against 30% recycled content from plastic packaging types placed on the market, it found that capacity may need to increase by 100% to meet the 30% recycled content in all household plastic packaging placed on the market. To meet that target for food grade rigid household packaging, it would need to rise by 200%

RECOUP policy and infrastructure manager Steve Morgan said: “The research conducted by RECOUP in producing the Infrastructure Report highlights the need for the UK to shift towards more domestic recycling in the UK, in order for the industry to be able to cope with the increasing demands for high-quality recycled plastic.

“Reforming and delivering a well-designed Packaging Producer Responsibility System in the UK is essential to deliver the infrastructure to meet a recycled content target.

“This would provide the underpinning foundations to ensure the necessary investment and confidence are in place for a sustainable business model to build and maintain the required recycling infrastructure for plastic packaging.”

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