Plastic recycling is more important than ever. This is now understood by more people than ever before. So why then is plastic recycling still such a problem and what can your business do to help improve it?
Responsibility is increasingly falling on manufacturers and companies that use plastic in their packaging. It is important that the challenges ahead are highlighted and that options are made clear. Whether it be customer pressure or industry regulations your business will eventually face the need to use more recyclable & environmentally friendly materials than it previously has.
To improve the amount of plastic being recycled in the UK some big changes need to happen with both the industry and the consumer. In this blog post I want to highlight a few that could help your business and some options for you.
Book a Plastic Free Consultation with Chapelton – we can help you audit and plan a more environmentally friendly packaging solution for your business and products.
It is working for paper
Recycling paper is now old news, literally. For years in the UK, we have been recycling paper, newspaper, old boxes and other pulp-based products. In 2016, 6 million tonnes of household waste was collected in the UK. Of this 6 million tonnes, 38.8% consisted of paper and cardboard. Only 7.9% of everything recycled was plastic. Why the disparity ?
What is the problem with plastic recycling?
Since the scenes in Planet Earth 2 aired, the world has never been more aware of the risks of plastic to our environment. This has bought with it a huge societal pressure to change. This is easier said than done in a short space of time.
Supermarkets have promised in their “plastic pact” to eliminate avoidable packaging and ensure it can be reused, recycled, or compostable by 2025. Currently, one-third of supermarket plastic cannot be recycled easily or at all in many cases.
Industries need to change and adapt, our recycling centres need new ways to deal with plastics, and companies need to source new materials to replace their current ones. This sadly will not happen overnight, but we are at least moving in the right direction.
We must also think, just because it is recyclable doesn’t mean it will be recycled. All elements must come into place, producers need to use recyclable material; consumers need to recycle effectively, and recycling plants need the technologies to recycle.
Chapelton has a great understanding of what can be done by businesses such as yours. From improvements in production processes to alternative packaging materials and sometimes even the most basic of changes; we can help your company support plastic recycling targets.
Recycling plastic is too hard
The low amount of plastic recycling is down to a number of issues but one in particular. Plastic recycling is just too complicated.
One trip to the supermarket and you’ll realise just how confusing it is. Checking the labels on plastic products is tedious, there is not one rule for all. Many types of plastic are used, especially in the food industry. A wander down the meat aisle, and you’ll be surprised how many varieties there are. Some are fully recyclable, some are widely recycled, some are not yet recycled, and some have many different elements that all have different recycling needs.
In our busy lives, faced with confusing choices, many people take the quickest option. Businesses must help people make the recycle option easy.
Not enough UK plastic recycling plants?
You may be surprised and disappointed to hear that the UK does not have enough plastic recycling plants. The UK produced 11 million tons of plastic waste in 2017, and around two-thirds of that was recycled. However, the national audit office showed that more than half of that waste was sent overseas for recycling. How can we say how much of this was recycled and how much went into landfill and our oceans?
The UK recycling system is just not up to the task of managing the vast plastic recycling needs. For too long we have sent large amounts overseas to become someone else problem.
How can we recycle more plastic?
Here are two clear ways in which plastic recycling can be improved:
- Limit the number of different plastics available to use. This would eliminate the hard to reuse/recycle plastics and push the plastics that work well in our waste chain. This could also cut out the coloured plastics, such as black which isn’t recyclable in our plants.
- Create mixed material packaging that are easy to separate. Paper coffee cups with plastic linings, plastic bags with foil linings, and paper sandwich boxes lined with plastic are amongst the most difficult items to recycle. They are incredibly hard and expensive to separate and are mostly considered contaminated and worthless.
All elements of this packaging need to be recyclable and if the consumer could easily separate them then it would be a huge bonus. The plastics and other materials would then go directly to the waste plants in their ready-to-recycle forms.
I assume suppliers and producers are frantically working to make and test potential plastic replacements. There are many options out there, some of which have been available for years, and others just in the testing phases. Either way, the future of plastic is recycled.
How Can We Make It Happen?
Saving our planet starts with individual choices. The choices around packing materials and food packaging have never been greater. Your business needs to understand what they are, how cost effective they are and what the implications are for making that choice. At Chapelton we help our customers make those choices and plan out how it impacts their business.
Book a Plastic Free Consultation with Chapelton today.