UK's New Plastic Recycling Target Attacked

UK's New Plastic Recycling Target Attacked

Recyclables - CC license by stevendepolo

The United Kingdom's Environment Department proposed higher recycling goals for plastic and steel packaging for the next two years in order to meet European Union targets, while keeping rates for other materials steady.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published the new packaging waste recycling targets, subject to Parliament approval, this week, and has been criticized for both not going high enough and setting targets too high.

The new target for plastic in 2011 and 2012 is 32 percent, up from the current goal of 29 percent, and steel is going up from 69 percent to 71 percent. The new overall packaging recovery goal is 74 percent, and the recycling goal is 68.1 percent.

Targets for other materials are staying at the levels they were for 2010; paper is 69.5 percent, glass is 81 percent, aluminum is 40 percent and wood is 22 percent. Goals for 2013 and beyond will be set once the government completes a review of its waste policies, which is expected to be complete in mid-2011.

From March to May, DEFRA gathered feedback on proposed targets, and in a document [PDF] summarizing the responses, it explains that the goals for plastic and steel are going up in order to maintain European Union packaging recycling goals for individual materials, which are laid out in the EU's packaging waste regulations.

If recycling targets for plastic and steel are kept at their current levels, DEFRA argues, in the future, the U.K. would not be able to meet the minimum EU targets. Setting higher targets now is essentially putting in safety nets for later.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth says the plastic rate it still too low. "The government has missed the chance to drive forward innovation in plastic packaging design — higher targets would have forced companies to recycle more," Michael Warhurst, the group's senior resource use campaigner, said in a statement. "We should be recycling as much of our waste as possible instead of burying it and sending it up in smoke."

But the Packaging and Films Association (PAFA) industry group says the target shouldn't have been moved up. “In our response to the government consultation, we called for a cautious approach because of the risk of cross contamination in the recycling stream," PAFA CEO Barry Turner told Food Production Daily. Turner also implied that aiming for recycling more plastic would put too much strain on the recycling infrastructure since, he said, it was just now able to deal with current amount of waste in the recycling system.

DEFRA  also proposed some changes to its recycling regulations, and noted that two deregulatory changes would remove required independent audits and allow small businesses to use a simpler method for calculating their obligations under the law, a switch that would save an estimated £285,000-£371,000 a year.

Recyclables - CC license by stevendepolo