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Plastics: Recycling

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he has taken to encourage the recycling of plastic; and if he will make a statement. (159145)

Recycling is strongly promoted by a range of Government policies. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is working to maximise the amount and quality of recyclate used in UK manufacturing operations.

The demand for recycled plastic is very strong, from both UK manufacturers and overseas markets. The UK currently recycles or recovers approximately 19 per cent. of all plastic consumed, and this is set to increase to over 25 per cent. by 2010. WRAP has a number of projects over the next two years which aim to switch manufacturing processes from virgin to recycled materials, including a target to support the recycling of an additional 16 kilo tonnes of plastic bottles—an increase of 30 per cent. from current levels. The use of recycled content in packaging is expanding rapidly, partly due to WRAP’s work to stimulate this market.

The Waste Strategy for England 2007, which we published in May, focuses action on key waste materials for greater scope for improving environmental and economic outcomes, one of which is plastic. The strategy recognises that recycling plastics shows significant potential for carbon and energy savings through displacing virgin materials. Actions set out in the strategy include developing proposals (subject to further analysis) for higher packaging recycling targets beyond the 2008 EC packaging directive targets, and supporting WRAP in its work to increase recycling of plastics and the recycled content of certain plastic containers.

We have set demanding targets, both nationally and locally, for household waste recycling and composting and the Waste Strategy 2007 sets even higher national targets, to reach at least 40 per cent. by 2010, 45 per cent. by 2015 and 50 per cent. by 2020. These targets are not material-specific, but we expect the range of materials collected by local authorities, including plastics, to increase further as targets become more demanding and as collection and treatment capacity increases.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether there is surplus capacity to recycle plastic waste in the UK. (159187)

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has carried out some work on the plastic processing capacity/supply relationship. The indication is that the UK, along with most of Europe, does have some excess capacity to process plastic waste. The exceptions are plastic bottles, and to some extent waste electrical and electronic equipment plastics, where growth in collection has supported a substantial growth in reprocessing capacity.

However, this is a complex area, and much of the existing capacity is too old, too small or targeting the wrong end products. Many plants are therefore investing in new capacity or updating and consolidating existing plants, some with support from WRAP. WRAP has a number of projects designed to maximise the amount and quality of recyclate, including plastic, used in UK manufacturing operations.