Industry fury over unfair and unachievable UK plastic packaging recycling targets

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Industry fury over unfair and unachievable UK plastic packaging recycling targets
The leading UK plastics trade body has launched a withering attack on what it says are unrealistic and unfair Government recycling targets for plastic packaging.

The British Plastics Federation (BPF) this week slammed Government plans to almost double plastic packaging recycling targets over a five year period which will see them climb to 57% by 2017.

The goals are ill-thought out, based on derisory data and would heap huge annual costs onto industry players, said the BPF in a strongly worded attack.

It accuses the Governments of using “excessive growth figures for plastics packaging which have been widely ridiculed within the industry”​ and warned they could lead to business fleeing the UK.

The objectives, laid out in DEFRA’s (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) recent plan calls on recycling rates to jump by five percentage points a year from 32% in 2013 to 57% by the end of the period.

The unfair in pursuit of the unachievable

The industry association stressed it supported policies that reduced the environmental impact of plastics but said it would only be achievable if the whole plastic packaging recycling supply was synchronized by a proper strategy.

Instead of doing this, the Government was adding “a further burden to an already struggling sector,”​ amounting to £70m (€84m) over the five years, amounting to a “direct and unfair tax on the packaging sector to support an unachievable target,” ​said the BPF.

“As plastics packaging producers we want to retain the maximum value in the packaging after it has done its primary job, but this target is unrealistic in its timescale and rate of increase,”​ said Bruce Margetts BPF Packaging Group chair. “It appears to be a straightforward tax on producers rather than a realistic road-map for infrastructure and quality improvement.”

He warned: “Production and filling of packaging could be lost from the UK.”

The PRN/PERN system would continue to make it more profitable to export waste and drive down the quality of plastics from material recovery facilities (MRF), said the association’s Roger Baynham, who heads its recycling group.

“If we cannot grasp this nettle we will fail to future proof markets by creating a viable long term UK plastics recycling infrastructure,”​ he said.

Slower increase

Instead BPF called for a more gradual increase in the targets resulting in the rate reaching no more than 35% by 2017.

Standardising local authority collection sorting and recycling, tackling quality issues, substantial investment in waste recovery facilities and discouraging of exports of waste was essential to increasing plastics packaging recycling.

But the federation cautioned this was unlikely to be achieved by 2017.

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