Trade associations develop quality standard for recycled plastics

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A quality standard for recycled plastics has been developed by UK recycling industry trade associations.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), The Recycling Association (TRA), RECOUP and the British Plastics Federation (BPF) have developed Quality Standards for Recycled Plastics that applies to materials destined for export and goes beyond existing regulatory compliance requirements.

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It was drafted by the ESA in consultation with the other trade associations to build on best practice to drive up the quality of baled post-consumer plastics.

The position of the Environment Agency and Defra is that materials should be “substantially free of contamination”, but neither defines a percentage limit for contamination.

While this Quality Standard does not replace the regulatory position or requirements of regulators, it sets out a commercial baseline standard that has been agreed by organisations across the post-consumer value chain (buyers and sellers).

Work is also currently underway to agree commercial standards for other secondary materials.

ESA executive director Jacob Hayler said: “Setting and delivering high standards for the sector is a strategic priority for the ESA and, by establishing a clear, objective, quality standard, we hope to bring consistency to output quality and provide a useful reference tool for both sellers and buyers of this material – supporting a market that remains vital to the UK’s circular economy.”

The Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin added: “We are delighted to be part of a trade association partnership that has delivered a workable standard that all sectors of the industry can adopt.

“A key weakness in our day-to-day operations is the absence of tangible standards, but the standard we have now produced will not only help to improve quality, but should also facilitate clearer regulation, reduce risk and encourage investment.”

British Plastics Federation senior recycling issues executive Helen Jordon said: “Setting and delivering high standards for the sector is a strategic priority for the ESA and, by establishing a clear, objective, quality standard, we hope to bring consistency to output quality and provide a useful reference tool for both sellers and buyers of this material – supporting a market that remains vital to the UK’s circular economy.”

RECOUP chief executive Stuart Foster added: “RECOUP has published and supported a number of bale specification documents over the years to try and encourage good practices.

“The opportunity to bring together previous guidance and support the development of a new relevant collaborative specifications document with the ESA, underpinned by practical current market requirements, was too good an opportunity to miss.

“We encourage the sector to make use of the new quality standards which will ensure the recycled plastic market demand and supply specifications are aligned.”