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120,000 tonnes of waste plastics available in the UK, says RECOUP

A new RECOUP report estimates over 120k tonnes of plastics are available for recycling from UK Household Waste Recycling Centres.Plastics resource efficiency and recycling charity, RECOUP, has released its 2023 Plastics Management and Recycling at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) in the UK report, finding a significant quantity of plastics going unrecycled.

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1852721353 Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, England, UK - November 12th 2020: Rickmansworth recycling centre, Riverside Drive, Rickmansworth

The report found that over 120,000 tonnes of rigid and hard plastics are disposed of at HWRCs in the UK annually, almost 3kg per household, but that little of this is recycled. This amounts to as much as £13mil of council and waste management company funds paying taxes and gate fees for disposal of this material.

Tom McBeth, Policy & Infrastructure Projects Manager said: “Whilst known to be more difficult to process, of lower value and more highly contaminated than kerbside material, plastics collected at HWRCs offer an opportunity to capture more previously unrecycled material as recycling targets continue to grow. This, combined with increased demand for recycling and recyclate through various policies and legislation, means that there is a need for more materials to be captured and recycled, particularly domestically.”

As part of the report, RECOUP has developed a number of recommendations and interventions that would help enable plastic disposed of at HWRCs to fit into circular economy models, as well as potential steps to build on this research further.

These recommendations include:

  • Creating a robust dataset relating to material captured at HWRCs.
  • Better understanding the journey of this material from collection to its final destination.
  • Identifying the requirements for greater investment in UK infrastructure to sort and reprocess traditionally ‘hard to recycle’ plastics.
  • Develop re-use infrastructure to remove items being disposed of as waste in instances where they can be recovered.
The Plastics Management and Recycling at Household Waste Recycling Centres in the UK report is available for RECOUP members to download from its website.

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Publication date: 16/05/2023

European Plastic Product Manufacturer

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31