New research has shown that only around a third of plastic packaging is recycled each year. The other two thirds are either sent to a landfill or end up incinerated. It is estimated that there was around 1.5m tonnes of recyclable plastic waste used in Great Britain in 2015. Of the 1.5m tonnes only 500,000 tonnes were recycled, according to the figures compiled by Co-op from the Household Plastics Collection survey.
This figure is considerably lower than the national average for recycling, currently only 45% of recycled goods are being recycled each year. Recycling groups have put the considerable drop in household recycling down to consumer uncertainty. Consumers are unsure of what items can be recycled as well as a lack of information provided by local authorities.
Steve Morgan, technical manager at plastic recycling charity Recoup said ‘Most people recognise a plastic as something you can recycle. The recycling rate is about 60% for plastic bottles but when you start talking about other products, plastic pots and tray – a yoghurt pot, margarine tub – the recycling rate is much lower.’
In 2015 households were most conscientious when it came to recycling plastic bottles, with consumers recycling 7.5b out of 13b (57%) plastic bottles used by UK households. Whereas, only around 30% of all plastic pots, tubs and trays were recycled.
In 2015 it is estimated that only 3% of plastic film products were recycled. This includes products such as: plastic bags, pasta and rice bags, and the film on ready made meals. This is because only 20% of local authorities provide a recycling service for the collection of these services.
The environment manager at Co-op, Iain Ferguson said ‘It is shocking that such a small percentage of plastic packaging is being recycled, especially materials that are already easy to recycle like plastic bottles. We are connected that so much still goes to landfill every year. We need to stop thinking about this plastic as a waste and start to use it as a resource.’
He went on to point out that recycled plastic products serve many purposes. They can also be turned into a myriad of things including football shirts, sleeping bags, car bumpers and plastic furniture. Steve Morgan pointed out that the unrecycled plastic can be ‘recycled into very high-end products’ showing why it’s so important not to waste these materials.
2015 was a poor year for recycling in the UK. However, it is still an increase in comparison to 10 years ago. The amount of plastics recycled across the whole of the EU has increased considerably. Between 2006-2014 there was a 64% increase in recycling of plastics.