BPI says plastic recycling targets ‘unachievable’

Andrew Green and Minister Fallon

Pictured (L to R): Andrew Green, Managing Director at BPI Films, and Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP, Minister of State for Business & Enterprise

British Polythene Industries (BPI) plc has warned a government minister of the ‘damaging’ consequences of Defra’s plastic recycling targets, at a formal commissioning ceremony at the BPI Films’ Sevenoaks facility in Kent.

The ceremony, held on 23 November to commemorate the commission of a £2 million, three-layer co-extrusion line (that will melt multiple layers of plastic film material simultaneously), was attended by Minister of State for Business & Enterprise, Michael Fallon, who praised the company’s commitment to ‘new, high technology production equipment’.

In response, BPI Films Managing Director, Andrew Green, thanked the minister for attending the event and unveiling the commemorative plaque, but issued a stark warning of the damage that the government’s plastic recycling targets will cause, in the eyes of some industry insiders.

While recognising the need for stretching recycling targets, Green said that the new plastic recycling targets are ‘unachievable’ and will increase costs, damage existing recovery infrastructure and encourage fraudulent trading in the packaging recovery note (PRN) system. The new targets specify that the UK must recycle 57 per cent of its plastics by 2017.

Green said: “We have absolutely no issue with stretching recycling targets. Indeed as the largest recycler of polythene film waste in Europe, we actively support stretching recycling targets. Our concern with the (new) targets as now set by Defra is that they are unachievable.

“Having increased the amount of plastic waste we recycle as a nation by 500,000 tonnes in the last 13 years, these new targets require our industry to increase the volumes of plastic waste we collect and recycle by 600,000 tonnes within the next five years.

“To achieve the government targets the UK will need to become the biggest recycler of plastic bottles, pots, tubs, trays and plastic film in the EU.”

Green added that the fact that 70 per cent of plastic waste is currently sent for reprocessing overseas is a “significant risk factor” in meeting targets.

In a warning to all ‘players’ in the food sector, including retailers, packers and producers, Green said: “The consequences of failing to hit these unrealistic targets in 2017 is that we will see huge and disproportionate costs to businesses handling plastic packaging over the next few years as we fall short. It will also create a huge incentive for fraudulent activity generating evidence of plastic reprocessing.

“Ultimately, it could undermine all the positive work our industry has achieved over the last 15 years by once again appearing to the general public as if plastic packaging is a problem, rather than part of the solution.”