Monday, 31 October 2016

The Future of Plastics Recycling

We have come a long way from throwing everything in landfill, but when it comes to recycling plastics, there are many confusing issues that leave many of us wondering what plastics can actually be recycled.
EMERGE plastic recycling
Image credit: The Recycler

With the recent news that more and more of the household waste we send to be recycled is getting rejected by recycling centres due to low quality of recyclate materials, many are looking out for industry initiatives to help clear the air and figure out what exactly the state of play is.

As you know, there are tonnes of different plastics out there, but many Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) will only take plastic bottles (without the tops). This message is taking a while to sink in, and meanwhile we are all drowning in plastic waste while current market demands are so limited.

So where does our industry stand on the relatively low levels of plastic recycling? In 2015, an initiative was set up by the Waste Reduction Action Programme (WRAP), a government-backed charity that works with businesses and industry to reduce waste through the use of best practices. What does this mean for the future of recycling plastic?
EMERGE plastic recycling

The aim is to recycle 57% of all plastics packaging by 2017, according to the sector-wide agreement generated by the PIRAP scheme, but last year the figure was only 38%.

Current market volatility means that creating a sustainable path towards plastic usage is far from easy as commodities such as the oil price dictate how much value there is in recycling certain plastics.

This is where the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan (PIRAP) comes in, with around 50 signatories so far adding their support, in an effort to produce a framework for greater consistency including informing consumers what we should be doing with plastics, plus implementing concerted strategies to reduce unnecessary waste within the supply chain.

One of the latest big players to sign up to the PIRAP scheme is The Co-operative, who became the first retailer to back the PIRAP Plan. The Co-operative’s environment manager, Iain Ferguson said they are “proud” to be involved, noting that the retailer acknowledges the significance of making sure “everyone plays their part in increasing plastic packaging recycling.”

Since coming into effect last year, Helen Jordan of the British Plastics Federation says that “...big steps have already been taken, by uniting the supply chain, which shows how each stage of the supply chain can impact on recycling”, whilst adding that the BPF hope that more companies and organisations will also sign up to the PIRAP scheme.

There are many exciting developments in terms of finding new and innovative ways to use plastics and make them more degradable. In fact, the global plastics additive market, (adding components to increase performance) is set to be worth a staggering $64.6billion by 2020, which shows just how much the industry is investing in innovation.

EMERGE plastic recycling
One such progression is a type of plastic known as oxo-biodegradable, where the plastic breaks down after its useful shelf life.  Thanks to a two-step process polyolefin chemical compounds allow the plastic to ‘oxo-degrade’ to short-chain oxygenated molecules which can then be broken down by micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi.

If you are a business in Greater Manchester trying to figure out where you should be recycling your plastic waste, get in touch with us here at EMERGE Recycling, and give us a call on 0161 223 8200 or check out our website

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