War on plastic

Plastics recycling is back in the headlines.  Especially since the recent BBC documentary  entitled War on Plastic.

Following the programme, Yorwaste has experienced a spike in enquiries about what happens to the plastics we collect. The answer has been put into an infographic to explain simply how Yorwaste process plastics, with the checks and measures we make to ensure such waste is processed in the EU and doesn’t find its way to a far eastern landfill site or, worse, into the oceans.

In case you missed the programmes, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani also focused on the steps we can all take to reduce plastic waste, principally by reducing our dependency on it in the first place. Reduce and reuse are the first two steps in the Waste Hierarchy, ahead of recycle and recover, and if consumers didn’t rely on plastic packaging, producers would reduce the amount they make. However, it was acknowledged this is not so easy, with consumer choice often hampered by manufacturers and retailers packaging practices.

The programme estimated over 20 billion pieces of single use plastic in circulation in the UK right now. Of this, less than half is likely to be sent for recycling. The rate of recycling is slowing, and actually falling in some areas, according to analysis by the BBC. This could lead to key UK and European targets for recycling being missed.

Recycling, and plastics in particular, have been part of the government’s recent consultations arising out of their Resources & Waste Strategy. Significant changes are expected around reforming the UK’s packaging producer responsibility regulations, introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, and measures to accelerate consistency in recycling for both households and businesses in England. The actual proposals are awaited with interest.

Meanwhile, it’s acknowledged that ‘recyclable’ is a misleading and often confusing term, with greater clarity and transparency around labelling being called for. Not all plastics are equal, with some types being technically difficult or uneconomic to recycle, whilst other types are in demand for ready reprocessing. Consequently, Plastics Recyclers Europe and The Association of Plastic Recyclers have made a joint announcement redefining ‘recyclable’ as:

• The product must be made with a plastic that is collected for recycling, has market value and/or is supported by a legislatively mandated programme.
• The product must be sorted and aggregated into defined streams for recycling processes.
• The product can be processed and reclaimed/recycled with commercial recycling processes.
• The recycled plastic becomes a raw material that is used in the production of new products.

In this respect, Yorwaste does all it can to sort and segregate recyclable plastic, then send it for reprocessing with accredited companies at licensed facilities within the EU. Other non-recyclable plastics are sent for recovery as energy from waste within North Yorkshire, generating electricity to power 40,000 homes, with none going to landfill.

Please read our fact-sheet on what we do with our customers’ waste.

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