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Could mandatory recycled content requirements cut plastic waste?

With new government funding on offer for ideas that cut plastic waste, research shows that there is plenty of recycled plastic available to UK manufacturers if the right measures are put in place.

With new government funding on offer for ideas that cut plastic waste, research shows that there is plenty of recycled plastic available to UK manufacturers if the right measures are put in place. 

The research from the Green Alliance think tank shows that the UK currently exports two thirds of its plastic collected for recycling, but there is enough to supply nearly three quarters of UK demand at home if a proper market for secondary materials is supported.

Beyond targets

The current government approach to tackling plastic waste focuses on recycling targets, which on their own only serve to ‘push’ material into the waste management system without supporting a market for it, the think tank argues. 

“If the UK wants to lead the world in addressing the global scourge of plastic pollution, that means creating a circular economy at home that allows us to turn discarded plastics back into new products. Just collecting plastic and shipping it abroad doesn’t solve the problem”, said Libby Peake, senior policy advisor on resources at Green Alliance.

Among other recommendations, the think tank and its supporters are urging the government to introduce mandatory recycled content requirements for all plastic products and packaging.

‘Action from all of us’

Dr Colin Church, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), said: “There are currently some significant failures, in resource terms, in the way plastics are used and managed at the end of life stage. Tackling this will require action from all of us – designers, manufacturers, retailers, consumers and resource managers. 

“The resource and waste management sector is more than ready to play its part, but it cannot act alone.”

Funding for ideas

In the meantime, the government has launched a £4 million funding initiative for innovative business projects from SMEs that look at ways of reducing plastic waste through new materials, designs, recycling processes or behaviour changes.
Applications close on 8 August 2018. For more information, click here