UK – The Somerset Council has confirmed that 100% of plastic collected from households through the recycling sites in 2022 was recycled in the UK.
The council revealed that it collected 6,500 tonnes of plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays, all of which were sent to UK companies for conversion into new products and packaging.
These plastics are recyclable with kerbside collections using the Bright Blue Bag. The domestic recycling rate for 2022 increased from 99.4% in 2021.
In the coming weeks, Somerset Council will release its annual Recycling Tracker, which shows what happens to every tonne of household waste and where it ends.
Somerset Council environment and climate change executive lead member Councilor Dixie Darch said: “We want to lead the way and act responsibly to protect our environment, helping make Somerset a greener and more sustainable county. We are transparent about where our waste goes as a county and are proud to say that all the plastic collected stayed in the UK.
“Letting people know what happens to the recycling they sort has been shown to be a great motivator to get people recycling more, which is why Somerset was the first area to publish this kind of detail every year.
“Responsibly reprocessing our waste is a priority, but we also want to back efforts to reduce the amount of waste we are producing. Recycling is great, but reducing and reusing is even better.”
In March, The University of Manchester published a report recommending a ‘drastic overhaul’ of the UK recycling system.
According to the report, titled Tackling Household Plastic Waste: Best Practice for a Circular Plastics Economy, a lack of standardization across the plastics supply chain is contributing to the UK’s failure to transition to a circular economy.
As the culmination of a three-year £1.5m interdisciplinary ‘One Bin to Rule Them All’ project – led by The University of Manchester together with a consortium of over 25 industry partners – the report dissects in-depth research with 30 diverse households in Greater Manchester exploring how consumers engage with recycling.
The report’s findings show that a lack of consistency in plastic packaging composition and messaging around recycling practices is causing confusion among consumers, spurring on chronically low recycling rates as a result.
The latest annual figures show just 44.4% of plastic waste generated across the UK was recycled in 2021, according to DEFRA.
This is compounded by the discrepancies in recycling practices between different local authorities. The report estimates that there are 39 differing bin regimes across the UK, as well as 3,500 waste recycling plants with varying capabilities in infrastructure.
To combat this, the authors of the report trialed introducing a ‘one bin’ system, which saw households decant all plastic waste – including recyclable and non-recyclable materials – into a single bin unit, in place of sorting into different receptacles.
The trial found that almost a quarter of the items collected comprised flexible packaging materials, which are often challenging for consumers to recycle.
It found that a large-scale standardized approach to the sorting, collection and processing of flexible plastics was critical to improving recycling rates.
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