Plastics Recycling Charity Recoup, the British initiative established in 1990 to kickstart the recycling of PET bottles in the UK, is alive and still going strong. Its work within the plastics recycling value chain is as valuable as ever.
Indeed, looking back on the launch of Recoup, Alan Davey, the then Technical Environmental Manager at LinPac Plastics noted that “It is strange to think that something we thought would only be needed for 3 years has turned out to be even more relevant today than it was in 1990.”
Yet, as with all organisations that survive in such ever-changing landscapes, Recoup has proven its adaptability and capability. The organisation has garnered a wealth of knowledge and today plays a key role in driving the government’s ambitious recycling targets.
In 1994, RECOUP’s first Local Authority UK Household Collection Survey reported that 3,150 tonnes of plastic bottles were being collected. At that point, there were only 8 household bottle collection schemes.
The 2019 UK Household Plastics Collection Survey reported 370,890 tonnes of bottles were collected for recycling with all UK Local Authorities providing a kerbside collection service.
Yet its task is not done. Recoup continues to call for even better collection rates for bottles, as well as for the need to address t the challenges within film collection rates (5%) and pots, tubs and trays (31%). As the organisation points out: if 2025 targets are to be achieved then much still remains to be done.
“No one could have predicted the pressure and attention placed on plastics in recent years fuelled by the ‘Blue Planet’ effect and certainly when RECOUP was launched this was not forecasted to be part of our future working space,” said Stuart Foster, CEO at Recoup.
“Politicians, consumers, media, and businesses are all demanding change and RECOUP is central to delivering that change through increased recycling and more efficient use of plastic resources.”
Today, Recoup boasts over 141 members from waste management companies and reprocessors to brands and retailers. From an organisation set up as a 3-year project looking at plastic bottle recycling, it has evolved into a respected authority and leading information source about plastics recycling.
And while there may come a day in the distant future that its work will no longer be required, for now, the organisation will remain at the forefront of discussions to create the right legislative drivers for recycling, and contribute to the conversations on Extended Producer Responsibility.
Recoup will also continue to promote productive discussion across the value chain to foster partnerships and collaboration for the greater good of the industry.
“We look forward to working with the support of our members to encourage and help foster the right conditions to allow for a viable and resilient system plastics recycling system across the UK,” said Foster.
The thirtieth anniversary of Recoup will be marked by, among other things, a series of web presentations and discussions on topics reflecting the range of the organisation's work, from plastics in farming and horticulture, to the opportunities of reuse and refillable strategies and challenges of flexibles recycling.