750,000 tonnes of household plastic packaging goes uncaptured

packaging in the home

Plastic resource efficiency and recycling charity RECOUP estimates that 750,000 tonnes of post-consumer plastic packaging is not currently collected for recycling, in its new UK Household Plastic Packaging Collection Survey report.  Legislation could bridge an important gap between the UK’s current capture rate and what plastic packaging is placed on the market each year.

The report appears to find that over 600,000 tonnes of household plastic packaging was collected for recycling in 2021, an increase of 4% on the previous year. This is an overall collection rate of 43% for all household plastic packaging in the UK that is captured at kerbside.

With recycling targets set to increase year-on-year, up to 62% in 2030 proposed in upcoming Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation, greater volumes of currently uncollected material will need to be captured. The report found that in 2021 over 200,000 tonnes of plastic bottles, 250,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays, and over 300,000 tonnes of plastic films and flexibles were not collected, offering huge potential for increasing capture rates with the correct legislative drivers.

The report also found that local authorities experience material reject rates of up to 35%, with an average of 13%, highlighting the need for clear and consistent communications to citizens to help reduce contamination and improve material quality.

Tom McBeth, Policy & Infrastructure Projects Manager comments: “It’s reassuring to see that, despite the significant challenges seen over the last few years, collection volumes continue to increase, albeit gradually.”

Tom continues: “What is now important, is it is not allowed to stagnate. With the current flurry of information and activity from Defra, particularly relating to the introduction of EPR, and the funding mechanisms and mandated collection of plastic films for recycling at kerbside, hopefully local authorities and waste management providers will have the confidence and assurance to adapt and invest in their collection schemes, to see the capture of more of these currently lost resources.”

As the UK looks to navigate its way through the many changing environmental policies, RECOUP continues to provide expertise and guidance for its members across the plastics recycling value chain and policy makers.

The RECOUP UK Household Plastic Packaging Collection Survey 2022 is available for RECOUP members to download from its website.