WRAP Findings Indicate 71% of Plastic Film Could be Recycled in the UK

Better logistics and a more co-ordinated approach could be the keys to improving the recycling of waste packaging film, according to a report published this month by WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme).

Carried out by Pira International, the aim of the research was to investigate the options for enhancing the collection of packaging waste film by establishing the optimum collection rate and method. The UK produces over 300,000 tonnes of packaging waste film per year, and the study focused on waste film arisings from the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector, such as pallet stretch and shrink film and heavy duty sacks, and from agricultural uses, including silage wrap.

The findings indicate that up to 71% of the film consumed in the UK could be collected for recycling provided the lowest possible levels of contamination were achieved. The report identified a number of barriers, particularly relating to economics and logistics, which currently limit film recycling and which would need to be overcome to achieve higher recycling rates.

“The key barriers emerging from the study are common to most types of plastics recycling in the UK and include the cost of separation for waste generators, the quality of separated material, a lack of space at retail outlets and regional distribution centres (RDCs) for holding loose or baled film and a lack of infrastructure,” explains Michelle O’Riley, WRAP’s Materials Project Officer for Plastics.

To address these issues, Pira International made a number of recommendations, including encouraging companies to investigate opportunities for backhauling waste to a central location or RDC to optimise logistics and transport. Increasing co-operation between small waste producers in high street locations and retail parks would also maximise tonnages and make collection more cost effective, and new retail and manufacturing developments should include facilities for the collection, storage and baling of film waste for recycling.

To further improve the economics, the report noted that improved levels of sorting at waste generators would deliver film of a better quality and higher value, and the recycling of agricultural film could be stimulated by reintroducing an upfront levy to cover the costs.

“If recycling levels are to improve significantly, a more long term and structured approach to waste packaging film is needed and WRAP will be using the data and findings in the report to inform future work under its Plastics Programme,” adds Michelle.

For more information on recycling, click here.

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