Consumer and producer responsibility, increasing quality and quantity of collected material, creating demand through recycled content and innovative thinking were all part of the discussion for the record numbers attending the RECOUP annual conference. Alongside this, new editions of the RECOUP Recyclability by Design and UK Household Plastics Collection Survey were also launched.
In the keynote address, journalist Lucy Siegle discussed what she viewed as the many new and innovative areas of development within plastics recycling, including the use of plastics within textiles and the critical requirement to engage the consumer. Throughout the day there was a shared view that increasing recycled content in manufacturing would be one of the keys to success, whether through voluntary arrangements, incentives or a legislative approach. The importance placed on designing recyclability into product and packaging manufacture was also significant with a number of examples referenced, together with a call from Plastic Recyclers Europe to mandate recycled content.
Robin Baird from Resource Efficient Solutions emphasized the importance of taking responsibility ‘for our actions'. “This includes householders seeing and being aware of the importance of their choices when handling recyclable packaging. Only when we all take collective responsibility can we truly work towards a circular future,” he said
Throughout the day some speakers challenged the apparent lack of progress and re-visiting of old issues. But it was evident that there has been more dialogue in recent years between sectors to address the barriers to improving plastic recycling.
In the afternoon, the delegates were able to access a choice of sessions to reflect their industry sector. In the session entitled Designing for Recyclability, Graham Fox from Innocent Drinks stated that in a move from cartons to PET bottles they had found that their sales were stronger than ever. Innocent had a further commitment to use 30% rPET in bottles from 2018 and were actively campaigning for the wider use of rPET. Iain Ferguson from the Co-operative Group re-stated to the the audience that the Co-op had a commitment that by 2020 80% of the Co-op products will have packaging that is easy to recycle. Also in that session Paul East, Packaging Technologist from RECOUP outlined some of RECOUP's current projects regarding packaging recyclability.
At the conference, the results of a new survey focussing on attitudes to plastics in the marine environment were presented by Icaro. The survey included questions to consumers on locations where they had seen plastic litter, the consumer perception of the reason for littering behaviour, and attitude towards a DRS system. Greenpeace speaker, Elena Polisano, commented that the tide was already turning, the impacts were already visible and the consumer was engaging with the issue. Greenpeace pointed out that increasing recycling and producer responsibility reform remained one of the future challenges.