The growth in plastics recycling can play a key role in driving the green economy according to a new report published by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme).
The latest market situation report on plastics identifies the key developments in the UK markets for recovered plastic since 2007 and tracks trends in collections, existing and planned domestic reprocessing capacity, export markets, prices and legislative issues.
According to the report consumption of plastics in the UK is estimated to be in the region of five million tonnes per year. Almost half of this is said to be packaging, with construction accounting for a further quarter. On the flip side of this consumption, some 4.5 million tonnes of plastics are estimated to enter the UK waste stream annually – over half of which is packaging, and the rest mostly made up of WEEE, construction wastes, end-of-life vehicles.
Demand for food-grade recovered polymers has increased rapidly in the UK, and in some cases, demand is now outstripping supply. This is a market opportunity which could support greater investment in UK reprocessing infrastructure. WRAP has already helped to demonstrate the technology for producing recycled food-grade polymers and is able to provide further support for investors through its Accelerating Growth Fund.
Attention is increasingly turning to the recycling of non-bottle household plastic packaging, known as ‘mixed plastics’, the majority of this is currently exported to China, where low cost manual sorting has proved economically difficult for UK plants to match.
However WRAP believes this need not be the case, and that an over dependence on the export market for the processing of this waste could prove problematic, as recent volatility in market prices for recovered plastics has proved.
WRAP recently launched Mixed Plastics Loan Facility will provide further growth in the industry, and the first mixed plastics reprocessing facility to be benefit from this initiative is to open in 2011.
There could be significant economic benefits from increased recycling of mixed plastics in the UK. Previous WRAP research has suggested that the recovered plastics market has a potential value of £250 – £500 million. Coupled with this are benefits in terms of new ‘green’ jobs.
Marcus Gover, director of market development, said: “WRAP’s report shows that the overall picture for plastics is positive. Despite the volatility in prices of the past two years, the market is strong.”
He went on to say; “There has been extensive investment in UK plastics reprocessing capacity however, the UK still exports a large proportion of the plastics it collects for recycling. Given the strong UK demand for high quality recycled plastics, this represents a great opportunity for UK manufacturers to exploit this green niche.”
WRAP’s market situation report also identified further key themes from the plastics recycling sector:
• The plastic bottle recycling rate now stands at over 40% and there has been extensive investment in UK plastic bottle processing capacity over the past two years.
• Attention has now turned to collecting and developing infrastructure to recycle mixed packaging plastics, less than 5% of which is currently recycled. Around 20% of local authorities already operate kerbside mixed plastic collections, and 2011 will see the operation of the UK’s first mixed plastic reprocessing facility
• Recycling of non-packaging plastics has also increased, this is partly as a result of regulatory factors, however a further driver for market development was the launch of the Non-Packaging Plastics Quality Protocol.
Source : www.waste-management-world.com