In March, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs set new recovery and recycling targets for packaging waste for 2011-20 for obligated businesses.
Businesses were set targets to recycle approximately 86% of paper by 2020, 69% of glass, 70% of aluminium, 75% of steel, 57% of plastic and 70% of wood by 2020. The overall total recycling and recovery figure was set at 71.9%.
Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment director Jane Bickerstaffe said that the packaging industry was concerned about the targets. She said: “If we are not careful we will mess up all the hard work we have done to meet our plastic recycling targets.
“For instance, if we try and reach the proposed 57% plastic recycling targets we will be collecting things that are not plastic bottles and decrease the quality of bottles and the amount of crud with the bottles we collect. We are aiming for a target that is higher than what other European Union Member States have which is crazy.”
Packaging Federation chief executive Dick Searle added: “I am wholly in favour of any policy that helps the environment. But it is a mad assumption to make that maximising recycling is always the right thing to do.
“The targets need to be based on something realistic and be sensibly achievable based on the experience on some European countries.”
Under the Packaging Regulations, producers, who introduce packaging to the UK are required to share the responsibility for the costs associated with reprocessing packaging waste based on their position within the supply chain. Packaging companies that process more than 50,000 tonnes of packaging a year or have a GBP£2 million turnover are obliged under the regulations to comply with the packaging recovery note (PRN) system.
Searle said that the PRN system put a disproportionate burden on larger players in the industry and that burden should be shared amongst companies not obligated within the system in order to meet high recycling targets.
Axion Recycling director Keith Freegard said: “I think it is a good thing to propose separate targets for different types of plastics – bottle, films etc – as this causes the PRN market to become more focused in the way it meet supply or demand equation.
“Yes the targets are high – but only when viewed from the UK’s low level of recycling anyway. I think we will see some big volumes of previously ‘non-segregated’ plastics coming from the UK household waste stream when the latest energy- from-waste plants come online. It is in pre-treatment at these very large scale plants that the UK has a unique opportunity to grab the majority of the plastic (and metals) containers left in the black bin bag residual stream by the UK’s lazy, non-recycling ‘wasters’. The tonnages yielded by such large scale plant could quickly dwarf the currently collected tonnages form kerbside separation schemes.”