Research for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has found that the recycling of plastic packaging is actually being carried out at a rate ‘4% higher’ than thought.
The significance of this is that the government had set particularly tough recycling targets for plastics which may now be easier to meet: the recycling rate was thought to have been about 27% whereas the research has found a truer rate may be 32%.
Consequently, the Department is considering whether to review recycling targets for plastic packaging.
The study, ‘Plastic Flow 2014’, noted that over 2,260,000 tonnes of new plastic packaging were placed onto the market in 2013. This, the report claims, is around 330,000 tonnes less than the 2,515,809 million tonnes of plastic packaging that Defra had forecast for the period.
The report suggests that if current trends continue, the UK could achieve a recycling rate of 38% by 2017, and 43% by 2020.
Activity by producers of lightweight products is thought to be one of the factors behind the fall in tonnage put on the market in comparison to the projected amount.
The report explains: “The plastics packaging industry has believed for some time that packaging producer activity to light-weight plastic packaging has negated any potential growth in consumption and the results of this work would seem to support this assumption.”