Almost all plastic packaging waste that is discarded by households could soon be recycled, according to WRAP.
Despite more than 300,000 tonnes of plastic packaging being collected for recycling each year, more than a million tonnes still ends up going to landfill because of the difficulty in detecting and sorting black plastics and the lack of high value markets for non-bottle plastics.
However, trials funded by WRAP, have identified methods of recycling black plastics, complex laminated plastics, plastic films and polypropylene (PP).
For black plastics, by changing the pigment in the plastic to a non-carbon one, a material is created that is identical in colour, but can be identified by optical sorters in MRFs.
A second trial has found a way to extract aluminium from laminates such as toothpaste tubes, while a third trial has seen the development of a technique that could recycle post-consumer PP back into a material suitable for food grade applications.
A system has also been developed that cleans and recycles contaminated film producing a pellet.
WRAP director of closed loop economy Marcus Gover said: “When we first looked at recycling non-bottle plastic packaging back in 2007, we carried out detailed studies to make sure it would be technically and economically viable.
“We also carried out a thorough lifecycle assessment to make sure it was the best environmental option. We’re now seeing this recycling become a reality, creating jobs and re-invigorating the manufacturing industry in the UK reducing our reliance on exports.
“There have been, and there are still, barriers to overcome and WRAP will continue to work closely with the industry to develop these new methods and technologies so that, in the future, local authorities can offer their residents a way of recycling even more of their plastic packaging.”