Resource Use

Industry-led consortium announces flexibles collection and recycling pilot

An industry-led consortium has today (19 May) unveiled a flexible plastic household collection and recycling pilot, which it says is ‘the most extensive’ of its kind in the UK.

Flexible plastics and filmThe project will offer local authorities financial support to roll out and operate pilot kerbside collections, running for three years in two stages. An initial ‘Pioneer Stage’ will involve pilots at four local authorities, with five local authorities joining them for an ‘Industrialisation Stage’ six months later, building on the knowledge gained during the first stage.

Cheltenham Borough Council has been named as the first authority to join the ‘Pioneer’ stage, with the local authority operating a kerbside sort recycling system. Other local authorities are currently in the process of being recruited.

The £2.9m ‘Flexible Plastic Fund FlexCollect’ project will seek to understand how to incorporate flexibles into existing collection services across different geographies and demographics.

FlexCollect also aims to ‘build an evidence base’ through which the industry can share learning and develop best practice with ‘key insights into the operational issues, yields and recyclability of flexible packaging, effective communications with residents, and the costs of incorporating it into the UK’s current recycling system.’

The data and insights collected will be published to help support local authorities in introducing new collections, as well as stimulate the development of end markets and domestic reprocessing infrastructure.

Technologies and routes for material have not been selected yet. Speaking to Resource, Ecosurety said: "We will be looking into a range of recycling options, both here in the UK and in Europe. This is a research project and every aspect from collection to recycling will be under scrutiny – we will know where all the material goes and what happens to it."

The consortium member also noted that, in keeping with the Flexible Plastic Fund's policy, the project does not intend to process material outside of Europe 'due to the inherent problems of keeping track of it.'

Across three years, the project will have two stages – an initial ‘Pioneer Stage’ will involve pilots with four local authorities, with a further five joining them for the ‘Industrial Stage’ six months later.

The project was initiated and led by the Flexible Plastic Fund (FPF), alongside UK manufacturers and industry and government partners, such as the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), SUEZ, RECOUP, LARAC, and WRAP.

Ecosurety, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, RECOUP, and WRAP are set to manage the project as consortium members and co-funders. Industry stakeholders such as LARAC, NAWDO, CIWM, and ESA will also be involved, to ensure that ‘all parts of the value chain are considered’.

Jo ChurchillCommenting on the initiative, Resources and Waste Minister Jo Churchill said: “Plastic films and flexible packaging make up a huge proportion of our waste and we all want to see more of this material recycled.

“Our plans to introduce consistency in recycling and encourage more recyclable packaging through extended producer responsibility will significantly reduce the amount of plastic polluting our natural environment.

“This innovative project will provide valuable evidence to support our proposals to roll out nationwide collections of plastic film from all households and businesses.”

Gareth Morton, Discovery Manager at Ecosurety and FPF FlexCollect project lead for the Flexible Plastic Fund commented: “Alongside our work on front of store collections with retailers and recyclers, FPF FlexCollect will enable us to deepen and accelerate understanding of the flexible plastics recycling chain and its complexities through the lens of kerbside collections.

“It is a great opportunity for our members to get really involved and help to make flexible plastics recycling a reality quicker.”