Discussing the future of plastics recycling

The RECOUP Plastics Recycling Conference and AGM took place in Peterborough with over 250 delegates in attendance. Leading industry and government speakers shared their knowledge and experiences, with delegates making the most of the chance to network across different sectors and discuss the future for plastics recycling.

Dr Helmut Maurer from the European Commission provided the keynote presentation, putting plastic recycling into the context of circular economy and the EU approach to life cycle thinking. He outlined the recent European Commission proposals and reflected that maybe more attention should be on plastic as specific waste stream. He also questioned whether resources should really be addressed through waste policy, and indicated that a rethink could be needed for the development of separate resource policies. He noted that too much plastic is sent to landfill which could be used and recycled, and concluded that plastic is an ideal material to demonstrate that it is possible and profitable to move towards a circular economy model.

A video address from DEFRA Resource Minister Dan Rogerson confirmed that he is passionate about the challenge and opportunity to deliver a step change in the recycling of plastics, and his support of RECOUP and the plastic supply and recycling chain in its ongoing work. He also confirmed government and public body commitment to work with the plastic industry to achieve recycling targets and realise a genuinely resource efficient economy.

RECOUP’s chief executive Stuart Foster pointed to figures made available by the Environment Agency, suggesting that of the estimated £28 million was received for plastics PRNs in 2013, very little was allocated towards communications despite initiatives such as pledge4plastics being seen as critical to increasing household plastic recycling levels.

He identified that the RECOUP annual survey due out soon is likely to report household plastic packaging collection levels in the region of 475kt for 2013 with further gains in the number of pot and tray collections and modest increases in bottle collections. It was also noted that the design for recyclability guidance would also be updated and re-issued before the end of the year. Other attractions during the day included demonstration 3D printers running with recycled polymer, and the news that RECOUP mascots which had been used very successfully for campaigns over the last 15 years have now been recycled into picnic benches and bin liners by BPI, who were the main sponsors of this year’s conference.

Stuart Foster commented that this conference demonstrated again that ‘RECOUP can help bring together so many relevant organisations together to discuss the present and future of plastics recycling’, and urged more organisations to consider supporting RECOUP.