WRAP and BPF event discusses investment in UK plastics recycling

BPF and WRAP 'Investing in a Circular Plastics Economy' event
Lord Deben chaired the event and explained the environmental impact of poorly managed plastic waste in the UK
The British Plastics Federation (BPF) and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) recently held a joint investors summit exploring opportunities for growth within the UK’s plastics recycling and reprocessing infrastructure, looking at the challenges and possibilities for developing a circular model for waste plastic packaging.

70 people attended ‘Investing in a Circular Plastics Economy’, which was held at the Osborne Clarke offices in London on 8 October and featured presentations from WRAP, the BPF, PlasticsEurope, Berry Global, Circularity Capital and Innovate UK.

John Gummer, The Rt Hon. Lord Deben, Chairman of Sancroft and member of the Food and Drink Sector Council, chaired the event and got the evening’s talks rolling by explaining the environmental impact of poorly managed plastic waste.

He said: “Plastics perform a crucially important role in our society but we have to ensure that they don't do so at the expense of the planet. Recycling, reuse and replacement are the guiding concepts for the industry from now on.”

Progress has been made in stimulating domestic reprocessing through the increased uptake of recycled content. Last year HM Treasury announced that from April 2022 a tax will be placed on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging containing less than 30 per cent recycled plastic, and in April 2018 the UK Plastics Pact was launched across the UK, with a range of businesses committing to ensuring 100 per cent of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable and that 70 per cent of plastic packaging is effectively recycled or composted.

Reaching the goals set by the UK Plastics Pact will require significant investment, with Lord Deben exploring the extent to which this investment is needed in order to develop an infrastructure capable of sorting and reprocessing plastic waste effectively.

‘The time to invest in UK recycling is now’

Investing in a Circular Plastics Economy event banner
The event featured presentations from BPF, WRAP, PlasticsEurope, Berry Global, Circularity Capital and Innovate UK
Representatives from WRAP and the BPF then explained the current opportunities and challenges for plastics recycling within the UK, framing it within the context of wider ongoing developments and planned government initiatives.

The UK Resources Council (UKRC) recently opened a consultation (which closed on 26 September) asking for input from across the resources and waste industry to help it develop its proposal for a ‘Sector Deal’ between the UK resources sector and the government. One of the key foundations for the deal focuses on infrastructure – understanding what new products and services will be required to deliver a UK circular economy that isn’t reliant on waste exports and destruction.

Commenting on the investment event, Peter Maddox, Director of WRAP UK, stated: “Two thirds of plastic packaging placed on the market in the UK is represented by The UK Plastics Pact members, all of whom  are committed to making their plastic packaging recyclable, significantly increasing the recycling of plastic, and achieving an average of 30 per cent recycled content.”

“The work that is happening in the UK is leading a wave of change globally.  With government policy also coming down the track to incentivise recyclability and recycling, the writing is on the wall. The time to invest in UK recycling is now.”

PlasticsEurope Regional Director Kim Christiansen then explained ongoing developments at a global level as well as providing insights into the EU’s Plastics Strategy.

Alongside clearer labelling and recycling instructions, and a ban on the most commonly littered disposable plastic products – including single-use cutlery, plates, drinks stirrers, straws and cotton buds – the European Commission (EC) proposed that producers of specific hard-to-recycle and frequently littered products such as balloons, cigarette filters and crisp packets, will be required to contribute more to the costs of waste management and clean-up as part of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) directive.

The evening also saw talks on the demand for recycled polymers within the UK packaging sector; the importance of the role of finance and investors as the UK develops its domestic recycling infrastructure; and the availability of strategic funding available for eligible businesses with innovative ideas about improving how plastic waste in managed within the UK.

Reflecting on the event, BPF Director General Philip Law said: “It was encouraging to see so many big hitters in one room eager to understand the many opportunities for investing in plastics recycling and waste management. There is certainly understandable interest in this space and the upbeat tone of the evening suggests that the future of the UK plastics recycling sector is bright indeed.”

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