New UK recycling centre can cut food and drink packaging waste

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Packaging waste Recycling

A new UK recycling centre will be able to convert polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastics back into food grade raw materials for use in new plastic packaging, says Closed Loop.

The plastic will be washed, cleaned and ground into granules to be melted down and then turned into packaging material. Closed Loop Recycling is based in Dagenham in London and is still undergoing operational testing; however, the centre's management claims non-food grade plastic will be produced by the end of July and food grade material is expected in the autumn. The centre said that it will be able to convert 35,000 tonnes of PET and HDPE a year. The facility was part funded by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). Waste​ The UK food industry accounts for 10 per cent of all industrial and commercial waste or 6.5 million tonnes, according to the government, and is under pressure to significantly reduce waste, especially from packaging. In a special environmental plan launched in October the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) pledged that its members would cut packing materials by 340,000 tonnes by 2010, from the 4.6m tonnes used in 2005, a reduction of 13 per cent. The companies also pledged that no food and packaging waste would go to landfill from 2015. Yet the UK has lagged behind Europe in operating the advanced technology to convert waste plastic bottles to high quality pellets - which can be as good as or in some cases better than the virgin material. Consumer study​ Research commissioned by Wrap in 2006 found that 86 per cent of UK respondents felt it would be good if packaging contained recycled plastic. According to the packaging recycling targets set by the European Commission for the 25 EU member states, a minimum of 60 per cent of packaging waste must be recovered or incinerated and between 55 and 80 per cent of packaging waste must be recycled by the end of 2008. Mixed plastics​ Meanwhile, WRAP aims to have the UK's first mixed plastics reprocessing plant up and running by 2011. The group said that the plant would have the capacity to recycle up to 40,000 tonnes of mixed plastics a year, which would be converted into food grade polypropylene. According to WRAP, mixed plastics represent at least seven per cent of the domestic waste bin by weight, with around 86 kilos thrown out per household per year in the UK and the vast majority of it ending up in landfill. There is currently very little recycling of mixed plastic in the UK as the capacity to reprocess it is limited. Due to the number of polymer types contained within mixed plastics, the cost of recycling them is high and the perception is that it is not economically viable. Funding call​Last month, the Local Government Association (LGA) in the UK called for manufacturers and retailers to fund the cost of collecting packaging waste to encourage them to reduce the amount of packaging used on their products. The LGA's demand followed their second report into the weight of retailer packaging and how much of it can be recycled. The research showed that up to 38 per cent of packaging in a regular household shopping basket cannot be recycled. The study also revealed that Lidl and Marks & Spencer had the lowest level of packaging that could be recycled, at 62 per cent, while Asda's packaging came top, with 69 per cent of it recyclable.

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