Plastic assets

New research from WRAP reveals recycling household plastics can be cost effective as well as environmentally friendly.

The UK produces around 1.4m tonnes of mixed plastic packaging waste every year, which includes yoghurt pots, salad bags and ready-meal trays.

This figure is growing by two to five per cent every year. Although it makes up only nine per cent of household weight by waste, its volume makes it more noticeable.

WRAP aimed to see if these ordinary household items could be recycled to make new ones, rather than having to use virgin plastics.

The company believes there is a situation where few local authorities are prepared to collect plastic waste other than bottles due to limited potential for them to be recycled. However, this creates a situation where companies are hindered in their attempts to use such plastics.

WRAP’s research included trials of sorting out different types of plastics, an analysis of the type of technology needed, an estimate of running costs and modelling of the financial rate of return.

It also compared the environmental impacts of different ways of dealing with this type of plastic waste, including burning it and sending it to landfill.

The research showed that, in addition to the environmental benefits, recycling will be cheaper than both these options.

Landfill is the least-favourable option for disposing of plastics waste but in terms of global warming potential the research found that incineration of plastic packaging was the worst option, as more CO2 is emitted by burning plastics than by burning gas or coal to generate the same amount of energy.

Liz Goodwin, WRAP chief executive, said: ‘This new research is a first step towards getting that plastic out of the household bin and back in use. This will reduce the need for us to use large amounts of energy producing new plastics and the oil required in their content.’