UK plastics recycling conference highlights the need for action


Stuart Foster of member-based plastics recycling organisation Recoup addresses the Recoup Plastics Recycling Conference.

Over 200 delegates from across the UK and Europe took part in discussion and debate at the Recoup Plastics Recycling Conference on 29 September 2016.

The morning session was led by BBC Countryfile presenter Tom Heap. At last year’s conference he sparked debate on the daily confusion of the consumer as to what plastics can and cannot be recycled. Picking up where he had left off, he quizzed the speakers and delegates to see if they felt the plastics recycling industry had moved any further forward in giving clarity to the householder. The overwhelming feeling from the delegates was that the consumer was in fact no wiser and that contradictions within recycling collections remained.

Helmut Maurer from the European Commission was passionate in calling for action stating “we cannot be continually saying year on year things have stayed the same, it is time now for action”, adding “there is no time to waste in treating plastic as a valuable resource”. Maurer also called for an effective landfill ban on plastics as he predicted a doubling in recycling targets. Delegates agreed there needed to be more communication to consumers about plastics recycling, to increase recycling levels and decrease contamination, if plastics recycling levels are going to reach government targets.

Recoup CEO Stuart Foster said the delegates had played their part this year in working to meet the consumer. They had been out and about to promote plastic recycling, often doing so within collaborations and partnerships. But Foster also made a call for the industry to “deliver on a practical level”.

Working with Marks & Spencer Recoup had engaged in consumer insight. Kevin Vyse from M & S also outlined how they were exploring the possibilities of reducing the types of plastic packaging placed on the market which would help solve the problem of consistency and remove the confusion for the consumer. Vyse stated that “despite everything people still do not know what to do with plastics, that must change”.

BPI Recycling Products, External Affairs Director, aimed his presentation at busting the myth that the industry was in “crisis” and challenging the trade press on reports linking falling oil prices to recent high profile failures. He identified there were other reasons for such failures mainly connected with heavy reliance on public funding. Baxter questioned the audience to see if they supported his view point, and 81% of the delegates felt that the packaging and recycling press did not accurately reflect the health of the UK plastics recycling sector.
Other speakers from WRAP, the British Plastic Federation, the CO-OP, Buckinghamshire County Council, TOTAL, LARAC, Suez, Danone and Hahn plastics also shared their views and activities at the RECOUP annual conference which was a resounding success once again.

The 2017 Conference will be in Peterborough on 28 September 2017.

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