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Mar 15, 2018 / Richard Hall

Wake up call on recycling

Could UK plastic recycling really be as low as 23%, when it’s reported to be 39%?

Unfortunately, that seems entirely possible. Probable, even.

The reasons are multiple:

• Plastic usage is grossly understated. The figure is based on the amount of packaging “placed on the market”, but this excludes smaller producers and has no robust mechanism for capturing imports, exports or online sales.

• A new analysis by the Eunomia consultancy argues that actual plastic use is between 36% and 73% higher than officially estimated.

• Plastic collection is seriously overstated because the measured weight of waste includes a combination of residues, moisture and contaminants.

• Two thirds of UK plastic collected for recycling is exported and no one has a full view of what really happens then. Eunomia estimates “losses of anywhere between 10% and 40%.” It also cites a Netherlands study indicating conversion of “little more than 50%”.

I’d wish to be a defender of the good that packaging can do. But it is not acceptable if public policy is based on incomplete figures.

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