It’s alarming to think that, over the next five years, the supply of used plastic bottles might not be enough to meet the demands of organisations like Iplas, manufacturers of recycled plastic products. That’s the stark warning from RECOUP (Recycling of Used Plastics Ltd), the national charity for developing plastics recycling in the UK, in their recently published UK Household Plastics Packaging Collection Survey 2011.
We are, of course, among the organisations who reuse plastic bottles, as they’re one of the vital raw materials in Zyplex – our high performance recycled plastic, made from 100% UK waste which might otherwise go to landfill. Zyplex products used in sustainable construction and other sectors include decking, fencing, outdoor furniture and Zypave porous paving.
RECOUP acknowledges that much progress has been made during recent years in stimulating supply of the bottles to organisations like Iplas. It points out, for example, that in 2010:
- nearly 22 million households in the UK benefited from a plastic bottle kerbside collection
- 48.5 per cent of plastic bottles were collected, 2.5 per cent up on the 2009 figure and more than 45 per cent higher than the level a decade earlier
- the number of bring-collection points for bottles had more than trebled since 2000.
This is not least because the rate in growth of plastic bottle collections is slowing. Amounts collected in recent years were 216,000 tonnes in 2008; 263,000 tonnes in 2009; and 281,000 tonnes in 2010.
So what’s to be done? There’s undoubtedly an argument for improving bring schemes, through local authorities providing more of them and paying proper attention to factors such as location, layout and equipment, all of which have been shown to improve recovery rates.<.p>
But there’s not much doubt that kerbside collections really hold the key to dramatically improving that 2.5 per cent figure. With the widest possible coverage and the right collection frequency, receptacles and vehicles, these can really make a difference. According to WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), kerbside schemes yield at least four times as many plastic bottles as bring schemes, and collections from them cost less per tonne. This chimes with a survey of 1,000 shoppers conducted by food and grocery research specialists IGD earlier this year. That showed 37 per cent of shoppers would recycle more materials if councils collected these near their homes.
Hats off to the local authorities who are working hard to improve and extend their kerbside collections. Actions like these, allied to councils making collections more cost-effective, through efficient handling and baling, alongside maximising returns through effective communication campaigns, have to be the way forward.