According to the British Plastics Federation, an estimated 19-21 per cent. of the total plastics consumed in the UK in 2005-06 were recycled. The Government are taking action to support the reduction of plastic packaging in the waste stream and the recycling of plastics more generally.
There are numerous different types of plastics in use, which would require separate collection (or separation after collection) and treatment facilities to recycle. It inevitably takes time for that capacity to develop. Local authorities have understandably tended to focus their attention on waste streams that make a greater contribution to their targets and for which recycling infrastructure and markets are more developed. However, with targets for household waste recycling and composting becoming ever more demanding, all local authorities will have to start tackling the more difficult waste streams like plastics.
The waste and resources action programme (WRAP) is working to further develop efficient markets for recycled materials. WRAP'S targets for 2004-06 are to work with the plastics industry to increase the acceptance of recycled plastic throughout the supply chain, to deliver an additional 20,000 tonnes of domestic plastic bottle recycling capacity, and to ensure that an additional 11,000 tonnes of non-bottle plastics are recycled.
The Packaging Regulations set targets for recovery and recycling of packaging waste to be met by obligated businesses each year so that the UK can meet the relevant EU directive targets by the specified deadline. The directive requires the UK to recycle 22.5 per cent. of the plastic packaging waste entering the UK waste stream by 2008. Currently around 20 per cent. of plastic packaging is recycled in the UK.
Defra is working closely with the devolved administrations, WRAP, SWAG (Scottish Waste Awareness Group) and businesses to promote reusable bags and reduce the number of plastic bags entering the waste stream. More information is available on the Defra website at:
As a consequence of the Agricultural Waste Regulations coming into force, which ban agricultural plastics from being burnt or buried on farms, the Government are developing producer responsibility regulations for the collection and recovery of non-packaging farm plastics. It is envisaged that any collection scheme developed will collect both packaging and non-packaging farm plastics. The Secretary of State has allocated £1 million of the business resource efficiency and waste (BREW) funding to research this and other issues; provide recommendations on the most economical way to collect plastic waste from farms; and how best to implement producer responsibility for non-packaging farm plastics.
Waste is a devolved matter and, in Wales, it is dealt with by the National Assembly. However, recycling by UK businesses, according to the most recent Environment Agency report, showed waste recovery rates were at record levels in 2002, with 45 per cent. of all business waste recycled or re-used.
The landfill tax escalator gives businesses a strong financial incentive to re-use or recycle their waste. Revenue from the landfill tax escalator is recycled to businesses through the business resource efficiency and waste (BREW) programme, which provides funding to organisations who can offer support and advice to businesses who wish to improve their resource efficiency.
The revised Waste Strategy for England, which we will publish this winter, will outline what steps are being taken, and what more needs to be done, to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfill. The public, businesses and Government all have roles to play in following more sustainable waste management practices.