A more sustainable approach to packaging recycling

The recent Annual Report of the UK Government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging  indicates some directions that are intended to put recycling on a more economically sound basis than has previously been the case.

Among the many points made by the ACP:

  • industry groups should provide greater research based evidence on the potential impacts of identified packaging trends.
  • there are a number of levers which create an incentive to recycle including:
    • Legislation
    • Fiscal measures e.g. Landfill tax and the Packaging Recovery Note scheme (PRN is a form of recycling credits trading)
    • Political and public opinion
    • Income from sales
    • Resource security (which is becoming higher up the agenda for a number of major companies)
    • Increased demand from new markets
  • municipal councils should be given the responsibility to act as a supplier of materials for the market thereby reducing the amount of ‘waste’ they have to pay for and at the same time to engage more with the income streams available due to market value from the sale of materials.
  • the stretch film recycling targets set by the Government represent a significant challenge to industry. Plastics because it is a much more diverse material than the others categories, with a large number of different polymer types and formats with very different characteristics, which mostly cannot be mixed for recycling.
  • to meet future targets the UK needs to open up significant new sources of different plastic materials, as well a further increasing collections from existing sources.
  •  decontamination trials are being carried out to determine a process for producing food grade polypropylene that can be re-used in food packaging.
  • for a given tonnage of waste the aim should be to maximize the total volume of material turned into as high a quality product as possible. “High-quality” recycling should mean getting plastics back into plastics, not just fuels or low quality products.
  • there is evidence to suggest that collection systems that are simple for householders and businesses to use get better returns and can result in more material being recycled overall than systems which are more complex for householders to understand and use.

There is much in the 12 page report, plus an appendix on Sustainable Considerations and Trends in Packaging, that should be of value to those involved in packaging recycling policy and direction in Canada. The report can be found at https://npwd.environment-agency.gov.uk/filedownload.ashx?fileid=d5e4c263-3b51-42c2-89a6-35b75a9d4963 or by going to http://npwd.environment-agency.gov.uk/ and scrolling down to ACP Annual Report.

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