Latest 2016 Waste Recycling DEFRA Data
The UK’s largest recycling exhibition, RWM, takes place on the 12th and 13th September 2018 (NEC, Birmingham, UK). Leading up to the show, we wanted to review three key facts relating to the latest DEFRA data (from 2016) on plastic packaging waste (published in February 2018).
The Amount of Plastic Packaging Waste
UK households generated 1,015,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste in 2016. This is actually 12% lower than in 2012, although the amount has been relatively stagnant since 2103. In 2016, 20% of all packaging waste was plastic (by weight), although this percentage would be far higher if measured by volume due to the low bulk density of the material.
A Rising Recycling Rate
45% of plastic packaging was recycled or recovered in 2016 compared with 25% in 2012. The 2016 figure is higher than the EU target of 22.5%. Since the beginning of 2018, the UK Government has set a new recycling and recoverable target of 57% by 2020. This means that new strategies are needed to raise the rate by 12% in just four years.
However, there remains a question about what to do with the plastic once it has been recovered. The UK still exports a large proportion of its waste, but this is still classed as being ‘recovered’ and is included in the 45%. Since China closed their doors to waste, plastic waste has being shipped to countries around the world, including Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. This is not a sustainable solution, but it not reported in the statistics. An increasing amount of plastic waste is expected to remain in the UK and it is unclear how it will be managed.
Plastics Recycling Plants
It is widely accepted that there are not enough plastic recycling plants in the UK. In the past, it has been difficult to economically operate a plant with high costs associated with equipment investment and site difficulties due to the flammable nature of plastic waste.
One successful plant is located near Wrexham in North Wales where EcoVyn process 1,000 tonnes per month of good quality plastic waste. EcoVyn installed several Drawer Filter Magnets to remove ferrous metal contamination from the granulated plastic.
There has been a huge change in the public perception of plastic waste since the showing of the BBC series Blue Planet II in 2017. This has forced politicians to start taking action and it will be interesting to see the level of political and governmental engagement at the RWM exhibition.
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