A new roadmap released by the British Plastics Federation (BPF) charts a course for the UK recycling industry that would allow it to expand over the next ten years and more than triple the amount of plastic waste recycled in UK facilities, if the right drivers are in place.
The report spells out what is needed for the country to drastically reduce both its reliance on exporting plastic waste for recycling and the amount of plastic going into landfill to 1% by 2030.
It calculates that the UK could recycle up to 65% of all plastic and 75% of plastic packaging by 2030.
This will only be achieved with significant investment, not only in UK recycling systems, but also in such areas as waste collection schemes across all local authorities, the kerbside collection of plastic film, increases in the use of recycled material in new products and better communication to the public about what can be recycled.
New technologies will also need to be stimulated. The report estimates that if chemical recycling and other new recycling methods are proven to work at scale, the amount of material processed this way could increase by sixty times. This would mean newer recycling technologies would be able to process three hundred kilotonnes of plastic waste per year by 2030, up from 5 kilotonnes currently, including currently hard-to-recycle plastics.
The document also makes it clear that to significantly increase domestic recycling capacity, recycling rates need to increase for a range of plastic products – not just packaging. The construction, automotive, electrical and electronics, household, sports and leisure, and agriculture sectors represent a higher amount of plastic use in total than packaging and more needs to be collected and recycled. The report calls for specific product recycling schemes to be set up for products not currently collected at kerbside.
The Recycling Roadmap acknowledges that the recycling industry has been adversely affected by COVID-19, with some facilities running at reduced capacities. However, with the global market for plastic recycling expected to grow to £31 billion by 2025, the BPF report highlights that there is an opportunity for great growth in the recycling sector in the UK in the years ahead.