Britain’s recycling stalls
British recycling is stalling: recycling rates rose just 0.2% between 2012 and 2013, partly because of the disjointed way recycling is organised across the UK.
A new report from environmental think-tank, Green Alliance, claims the UK’s recycling market isn’t working too well, to the extent that we are losing an estimated £1.7 billion in material and reuse value each year.
Outdated policy means that a plastic bottle discarded at home is treated differently across the UK’s 376 waste collection authorities.
Worse still, a plastic bottle discarded at work goes through another, separate system, whereas in Denmark, plastic bottles are treated the same way no matter where they are discarded.
According to the study, businesses want to use recycled materials and reprocessors want to build the infrastructure to provide recycled material. But the current system makes this difficult – we collect just 30% of plastic packaging for recycling, two thirds of which is exported for reprocessing overseas. For waste electronics, just 2% is reused, even though 23% is suitable for reuse.
Author of the report, Dustin Benton, comments: “Local authorities spend more on waste management than housing or planning. Valuable raw materials are lost while businesses are frustrated by a lack of usable recycled materials. The system both stymies demand for recycled materials and prevents businesses investing.
“The problem is structural. The government could easily turn this around by reforming the system to help businesses get the UK moving toward a circular economy.”
The report proposes that reorganisation of the system could:
- capture £500 million more from waste electronics by increasing reuse and quality recycling
- support up to 40 new UK plastics recyclers
- unlock £1.2bn in private sector investment in anaerobic digestion