Only a third of household plastic is actually being recycled, according to the Local Government Association (LGA), which is calling for companies to help councils by dropping difficult-to-recycle packaging.
The LGA believes that councils are doing “all they can” to reduce waste going to landfill, but are being hampered by the actions of packaging producers.
According to the LGA’s analysis, the worst packaging offenders include margarine and ice cream tubs, fruit and vegetable punnets, yoghurt pots and bakery goods trays, which often contain several different polymers that make them difficult for councils to recycle.
Another key offender is black-coloured plastic, which is used for aesthetic reasons but cannot be scanned properly by sorting machines at recycling facilities.
“It’s time for manufacturers to stop letting a smorgasbord of unrecyclable and damaging plastic flow into our environment”, said LGA environment spokesperson, Cllr Judith Blake.
Cllr Blake said that “no-brainer” alternatives were available to companies and that the government should consider a ban on low-grade plastics, as well as a new system for producers and manufacturers to contribute to the cost of collection and disposal.
“We need an industry-wide, collaborative approach where together we can reduce the amount of material having an impact on the environment. But if industry won’t help us get there, then the government should step in to help councils”, she added.
Taxes on the horizon?
A recently-closed Treasury consultation into how taxes could be used to promote recycling received 162,000 responses that showed high public support for government intervention.
Secretary to the Exchequer, Robert Jenrick, said: “Tackling the scandal of plastic pollution is one of our top priorities and we know the public is right behind us. The responses we’ve received will be invaluable as we develop our plans for using the tax system to combat this.”
Some reports suggest that a levy on manufacturers and some plastics could be announced in the 2018 Autumn Budget.