Plastics recycling in the news

The subject of plastics recycling has seemingly dominated the media in recent weeks. Here, Riverside Waste Machinery’s managing director Jonathan Oldfield looks at some of the highs and lows… 

Plastics recycling is something we often talk about at our North Yorkshire headquarters, not least because we have a range of plastic waste balers within our fleet of machinery. But we’re passionate about the subject matter too, given the UK’s need to achieve a 47% plastic packaging recycling rate this year, as part of the nation’s progress to 57% by 2017.

We’re therefore avid readers of the industry’s headlines, keen to know where progress is being made in the plastics recycling field, and where there are additional challenges to overcome. And there has been a real flurry of conversation around the topic in the last few weeks, for mixed reasons.

Only a few days ago, for instance, we were met with the sad news that Dagenham-based Euro Closed Loop Recycling (ECLR) is almost undoubtedly set to close. The UK’s biggest plastic milk bottle recycler has faced a difficult period of trading in recent times, and despite numerous attempts throughout the supply chain to save this industry stalwart it seems the efforts have not proved fruitful. This is something nobody wanted to hear, so a somewhat sombre mood is perhaps to be expected in the sector.

That said, elsewhere there is more positive news to report, so we need to pay close attention to the more uplifting headlines too. Coca Cola Enterprises, for example, is planning to reduce the amount of virgin plastics in its packaging, by increasing the use of rPET or renewable plastics by 40%. What a bold and inspiring move – let’s hope more manufacturers follow suit within their own sustainability missions.

This will no doubt be music to the ears of Plastics 2020 (namely BPF, PAFA and Plastics Europe) and WRAP. The collective launched the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan (PIRAP) last month – a roadmap which aims to encourage better supply chain commitment to the government’s 2017 targets. And this in itself should be praised – there’s a new plan that should allow us to maintain progressive momentum in the sector.

You see, as newly appointed Resource Management Minister Rory Stewart pointed out when speaking about the new PIRAP: “We are recycling more than ever before and have doubled the recycling of plastic packaging over the last 12 years.” This is something to be very proud of indeed. We can’t stand still of course – more needs to be done, by us all. But in the face of headlines we’d rather not see, such as those surrounding ECLR, we need to rally together to ensure their efforts over the years have not been in vain.