68 per would pay more for milk if it supported recycling

68 per would pay more for milk if it supported recycling

A new poll undertaken by YouGov has found that the majority of people across Great Britain would pay more for milk if the plastic packaging it came in was made from recycled material, and believe that government should legislate to require manufacturers/producers to use a minimum amount of recycled content in plastic packaging.

Of the 2,006 people polled for The Sun newspaper on Monday and Tuesday (23 - 24 March 2015), 38 per cent said they ‘strongly supported’ and 30 per cent said they would ‘tend to support’ the proposition of increasing the price of a two-pint plastic milk bottle by 0.1p if it were to ‘ensure that bottles were made from at least 30 per cent recycled material and also recycled after use’. Only 10 per cent of adults were opposed to the idea.

The poll comes amidst news that the recycled plastics market is currently experiencing ‘unprecedented challenges’ due to the drop in the price of oil making virgin plastics cheaper, and manufacturers switching from recycled to virgin plastics in their packaging, despite it being just 0.1p less expensive (based on calculations from plastics reprocessing company Closed Loop Recycling).

As a result of this, and ‘operational challenges and unfavourable market conditions’, one plastic reprocessor, ECO Plastics – now known as ECOPlastics Recycling – sought acquisition last year following financial difficulties.

As such, members of the waste and resources industry have been issuing urgent calls for retailers and manufacturers to ‘switch back’ to using recycled plastic to help protect the ‘vital UK recycling infrastructure’, with Chief Executive of the Resource Association Ray Georgeson stating: “Surely 0.1p on the cost of a milk bottle is not a high price to pay for the sustainability of the UK rHDPE recycling infrastructure?”

71 per cent support recycled content targets

There have also been increasing calls from the resources industry for central government to mandate the minimum levels of recycled content needed in plastic packaging, as currently retailers and manufacturers are only asked to do so via voluntary commitments, such as the Courtauld Commitment and the Dairy Roadmap.

YouGov asked the public whether they would support or oppose the government legislating to require manufacturers/producers to use a minimum amount of recycled content in products with plastic packaging, with 71 per cent saying they would support it (and 37 per cent ‘strongly supporting’ it). Only six per cent of adults were opposed.

‘Decision-makers must take note, wake up and act to support UK reprocessing‘

Speaking of the results, Ray Georgeson, Chief Executive of the Resource Association, said: “The great British public ‘gets’ recycling, and is sending a clear signal to industry and retailers alike – they support the UK plastics recycling industry and would support the fractional additional cost of 0.1p on a two-pint plastic milk bottle that it will take to sustain reprocessing of recycled plastic milk bottles in the UK. Interestingly, the public also support the idea of legislating to ensure that recycled content is used in plastic packaging.”

He added: “The decision-makers in the supply chain must take note, wake up and act to support UK reprocessing through the storm of low oil prices and the turbulence this is causing to the sustainability of the UK plastic milk bottle processing infrastructure.

“The public agrees with many in the industry that 0.1p a bottle is clearly a small price to pay for a sustainable recycling sector. It requires nothing more than those who made this important voluntary commitment – a commitment upon which our reprocessing infrastructure has been built – to fulfil their pledges under the Dairy Roadmap and Courtauld Commitment. They could do it this working day, and stem the growing uncertainty.”

Resource Management Minister Dan Rogerson told Resource: "The plastic packaging supply chain has worked hard to increase the amount of packaging being recycled, with the full support of government - and under the Dairy Roadmap we’ve also increased the recycled content of milk bottles to nearly 30 per cent. It is clear that the wider public welcomes this.

“This industry-wide commitment to recycling is delivering real environmental benefits, creating jobs, and helping to build a stronger, greener UK economy.”

Resource has contacted the signatories of the Dairy Roadmap to seek confirmation that the retailers and dairy producers are committed to using 30 per cent recycled content in their packaging, but has so far only had a response from The Co-operative Food and dairy food company Dairy Crest.

A spokesperson for The Co-operative Food said: “We have no plans to move away from using recycled content in our milk bottles and we will continue to help in the progress towards the Dairy Roadmap targets for recycled content.”

However, he added: “Part of the long-term solution for the recycling sector will need to be a fairer alignment of PRN [packaging recovery note] and PERN [packaging export recovery note] prices that will support a sustainable UK recycling system.”

Echoing these sentiments, a spokeperson for Dairy Crest said that the company "remains committed to rHDPE" and will continue its involvement with the Dairy Roadmap.

Read the full YouGov poll results or find out more about the disparity between the PRN and PERN system.

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