The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has slammed the coalition government's preferred option for plastics packaging recycling targets in the UK, labelling the proposals “a further burden on an already struggling sector”.
In a consultation paper entitled Consultation on recovery and recycling targets for packaging waste for 2013-2017 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it wants to see a business target of 57% of all plastics recycled by 2017, whereas the BPF has called for a more gradual rise over the next half-decade to around the mid-30% mark.
Responding to the Defra document the BPF said the proposed regime would add a further £70m in direct costs onto plastics packaging producers and handlers over five years.
The trade body said this was “in effect a direct and unfair tax on the packaging sector to support an unachievable target” and accused the government of using “excessive growth figures for plastics packaging which have been widely ridiculed within the industry”.
Bruce Margetts, chair of the BPF's Packaging Group, said while there was support for retaining maximum value in any packaging after it had done its job, “[the government's] target is unrealistic in its timescale and rate of increase.
“It appears to be a straightforward tax on producers rather than a realistic road-map for infrastructure and quality improvement. Production and filling of packaging could be lost from the UK,” he added.
Meanwhile Roger Baynham, chair of the BPF's Recycling Group, said that while he applauded policies which would lead to increased resource efficiency and which create sustainable jobs and generate wealth for an emerging UK low carbon green economy, "the PRN/PERN mechanism will continue to incentivise exports and drive down quality of MRF plastics unless there are mandatory minimum quality standards in line with increased targets.
“If we cannot grasp this nettle we will fail to future proof markets by creating a viable long term UK plastics recycling infrastructure,” he added.
Jonathan Bloom, the BPF's senior executive, industrial issues, said the trade body's preferred figure of the mid-30s percent was itself “a substantial but achievable target”.
Bloom said the BPF was “disappointed” that the views of Defra's own expert committee, the Advisory Committee of Packaging's Plastic Packaging Recycling Task Force, had been ignored.
The BPF said Defra's preferred option also flew in the face of comments made by the Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement last November, when he said efforts to reinvigorate the UK economy must not be stifled by “endless social and environmental goals”.
Privately, industry observers fear the government's proposed targets will add pressure to the recycling system, possibly leading to poorer quality recycled plastic products and rejection by end-consumers.
Comments on the Defra consultation must be received by 10 February 2012 at the latest.