The UK’s recycling industry could provide around three-quarters of the raw materials needed for plastic packaging and products with government support.
That is according to a report released today by the Green Alliance, which argues that the government’s current focus on recycling targets fails to create a market for the plastic recycled.
It recommends short-term support to kick-start the reprocessing market and a new fund to attract investment, as well as mandatory recycling requirements for all plastic products and packaging.
“Just collecting plastic and shipping it abroad doesn’t solve the problem,” Green Alliance senior policy adviser on resources, Libby Peake, said.
“If the UK wants to lead the world in addressing the global scourge of plastic pollution, that means creating a circular economy at home that allows us to turn discarded plastics back into new products.”
The report argues that the government’s current approach to recycling simply pushes material into the waste management system, failing to develop a market for the plastic collected.
It says that this has resulted in an over reliance on virgin materials, wasting valuable resources to the detriment of the environment, industry and the economy.
By adopting the report’s recommendations, it is estimated that the recycling industry could supply 71% of the raw materials needed by manufacturers of plastic products and packaging.
The Green Alliance said new policy would be needed to overcome technical barriers, and that a long-term strategy should provide certainty for investors, facilitate new collaborative problem-solving, and ratchet up ambition over time.
“The time has come for the UK to take more responsibility for its own waste.” WRAP UK director, Peter Maddox, said. “We need to design circular systems for plastics and other materials that are sustainable.
“The UK government has a great opportunity through the forthcoming resources and waste strategy to ensure the policy framework enables a thriving and commercially successful UK recycling sector.”