The latest figures from the national packaging waste database show that the UK has achieved the highest volume of plastic packaging recycling on record in the second quarter of 2022. This follows last year’s news that, for the first time, the UK market was outstripping exports.
“These latest figures show that things are moving in the right direction,” said James Armitage, commercial operations analyst at Reconomy Group company Valpak, the largest environmental compliance scheme in the UK.
Higher volumes of material managed in the UK result in a more robust data trail and confidence that material is being processed responsibly. At the same time, PRN (Packaging Recovery Note) funding provides substantial investment in UK infrastructure.
“However, there is still room for improvement across the industry. Valpak has always favoured UK reprocessing – in 2021, 70 per cent of our plastics PRNs were sourced from UK businesses, compared with a UK figure of 53 per cent. Since 2017, we have invested over £200 million into UK recycling infrastructure through our PRN purchasing, and over £120 million for plastic specifically. As the market adapts to greater demand for UK-sourced material, we look forward to seeing others follow our lead.”
Although UK plastic packaging recycling has risen steadily since 2016, 2021 saw a significant jump. The figures for 2022 currently suggest that 2022 is on track to be the highest volume UK plastic reprocessing year ever, potentially hitting over 600,000 tonnes of plastic reprocessed in the UK if current volumes are maintained. The total for 2021 was 593,000 tonnes. This would be a significant achievement in a relatively short space of time, representing a 33% increase in UK volume compared to 2019 - if the 600,000-tonne figure is met for 2022.