A new strategy aimed at improving plastic waste recycling has been launched by the BPFRG (The British Plastics Federation Recycling Group). This strategy aims to encourage the development of the UK plastic recycling industry and keep valuable plastic material in the UK so it can be used by the manufacturing sector, rather than exported or added to a landfill.

Recycled plastics can contribute in a major way to the green economy and, depending on the polymer and how it is manufactured, they can save from sixty to eighty percent of CO2. Currently, however, manufacturers that use recycled plastic products are not differentiated from those who use virgin materials.

There are four main elements to the new strategy:

Firstly, the plastic packaging recycling target will be split between domestic plastic recycling and non-UK markets. Prior to Brexit, targets were split between waste remaining in the UK and Europe, and waste exported to other countries in the world. This new strategy will help increase plastic recycling in the UK over time, ensuring that more secondary material can be kept in the UK and used by the manufacturing sector.

Quality standards will be raised to ensure that the plastic feedstock made available to manufacturers is in higher demand and can be used commercially. This would involve additional sorting efforts from plastic reprocessors that would guarantee only acceptable materials are approved for use.

Currently, there are barriers preventing certain materials from being viably recycled. An investment fund will enable new technologies to be developed that will increase the viability of recycling certain materials. Ensuring that these technologies are commercially viable could mean that materials such as pots, tubs and trays, of which only 30% are currently recycled, could more easily be recycled and contribute towards the UK’s plastic packaging recycling target of 57% by 2020.

The final element of the strategy involves implementing specific policies that would require large companies and public bodies to include recycled materials in their procurement processes. This would improve confidence in the sector, create stable end markets, and widen the range of products that included recycled materials in their contents. This strategy would enable the wider public to appreciate the value of plastics in the manufacturing process, and therefore increase their general motivation to recycle where possible.

In conclusion, this new strategy could improve the self-sufficiency of UK’s manufacturing and decrease susceptibility to threats from other markets abroad. Even with all the necessary infrastructure in place, plastic manufacturing companies still need industry support to champion the use of recycled plastics, as opposed to importing virgin materials. Some types of waste, such as household films and certain types of rigid packaging, are more difficult to recycle, and require the innovation of new technologies. Overall, there is a need to demonstrate that despite widely held current beliefs, plastic can be a valuable and sustainable raw material.

For more information on Berry's sustainability goals and strategies for sustainable development visit: https://www.berryglobal.com/en/sustainability/sustainability-strategy