Resource Use

BPF roadmap calls for reduced plastic waste exports by 2030

The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has released a roadmap describing how it sees the UK recycling industry can grow by 2030, with the potential to triple the amount of plastic waste recycled in UK facilities.

The report proposes how to reduce the amount of plastic going into landfill to 1 per cent by 2030. In it, the BPF forecasts the amount of plastic waste being exported to halve if the right measures are taken to completely halt all reliance on low quality export, which still is currently the main destination for plastic packaging. The report notes that in 2019, 61 per cent of this was exported.

The report has gained support from industry experts and some MPs. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defra Rebecca Pow writes in the foreword: “The 2030 British Plastics Federation’s vision sets out a clear pathway for progress, including an increase in recycling rates, minimal reliance on landfill and no exports of low-quality material.

“I am pleased to say this vision aligns with the government’s own Resources and Waste Strategy. Our Environment Bill will enable us to significantly change the way we manage our waste and take forward a number of the proposals from the strategy.”

The 16 changes laid out include the challenge of collecting plastic film from the kerbside, more recycled material being used in the making of new products and better communication to the public about what can be recycled, with binary recycling labels being made mandatory on all products.

The report also claims that wider adaptations of new technological advancements, such as chemical recycling, has the ability to process 300 kilotonnes of plastic waste per year by 2030 (up from 5 kilotonnes currently).

Chemical recycling is also proposed as a solution to problems that arise from plastic that is challenging to recycle. These technologies can generate a ‘chemical feedstock’, monomer or polymer to be produced which then can be changed into a raw material.

The roadmap aims to level up plastic recycling across industries, pointing out the need to put in place high-quality recycling schemes for more than just the plastic from packaging but also for the plastic found in automotive, electrical and electronics, household, sports and leisure, and agriculture sectors.

At present, 48 per cent of the UK’s recycled plastic is used in building and construction, while 1 per cent of it is used for houseware, leisure and sport or electrical items.

Philip Law, Director General of the BPF, commented: “The BPF Recycling Roadmap shows that with the right collaborative effort, we have the potential to be a leading light when it comes to rapidly developing the technology and infrastructure to recycle far more plastic.

“Drastically reducing our reliance on exporting plastic waste for recycling and the amount of plastic waste going to landfill is achievable and this roadmap shows how. Most importantly, there needs to be significant investment in increasing UK recycling capacity.”

This follows the BPF calling on the government to support plastic exports due to the financial uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. It has also expressed concern over the impact of Brexit on the plastics industry.