Councils call for ban on low-grade plastics

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
Just 169,145 tonnes of packaging waste is able to be recycled, according to the LGA

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for governments to introduce a ban on low-grade plastic packaging.

New LGA analysis found just one third of plastic in packaging pots and trays is currently able to be recycled.

Although 525,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays are used by households every year, analysis found just 169,145 tonnes of this waste is able to be recycled.

The LGA has criticised manfucaturers for creating a ‘smorgasboard’ of unrecyclable and damaging plastic flow into the environment.

It blames poorly designed every day food packaging such as black plastic microwave meals which cannot be easily detected and margarine and ice cream tubs made out of hard to recycle polypropylene.

Some products, like yoghurt pots and fruit punnets, are made up of to three separate polymers which mean they cannot be easily separated and recycled.

Councils are now calling on government to introduce a ban on low-grade plastics and for producers and manufacturers to contribute to the cost of collection or disposal.

It has also asked manufacturers to work with councils to develop a plan to stop unrecyclable packaging from entering the environment in the first place.

Judith Blake, LGA environment spokesperson, said: “Some of the measures that could help us reduce landfill and increase recycling are no- brainers.

“If manufacturers don’t want to get serious about producing material which can be recycled and protecting our environment, then they should at least contribute towards the cost that local taxpayers have to pay to clear it up.

“We need an industry-wide, collaborative approach where together we can reduce the amount of material having an impact on the environment.”

Writing for CIWM, INCPEN CEO Paul Vanston criticised the LGA for its response to the analysis.

He said: “The old-style ways of issuing press releases pointing fingers of blame at others in the very same value chain have been set aside by the most forward-thinking organisations whom are fully engaged in current agendas and helping to shape them.”

Vanston argued the smorgasbord the LGA refers to exists in several parts of the value chain, including council collections.

He added: “I think there is greater consistency of packaging recycling collections across councils than many think, especially in terms of packaging formats that are recycled.”

However SUEZ recycling and recovery CEO David Palmer-Jones agreed with the LGA's calls to put more pressure on manufacturers.

He said: “It’s vital that manufacturers of this hard-to-recycle packaging are incentivised, through a variety of mechanisms, to reconsider the designs, materials and constructions they use.

"We want to create an economic system where it is in producers’ interests to harvest the materials in their products, once discarded by their customers, so they can be made into new things."

The UK’s major supermarkets have now signed up to the UK Plastics Pact, which pledges 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable to compostable by 2025.

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