UK recycler Biffa has called for a complete ban on the export of waste plastics as part of a drive for all plastics to be recycled within the UK. The move would retain the material as a resource, generate UK investment and jobs and avoid unintended environmental problems in other countries.
The company highlights the need for clearer differentiation between ‘good plastics’, which are easily recyclable, versus ‘bad plastics’, such as unnecessary single-use plastics and difficult to recycle plastics. In the latter area, Biffa picked out black plastics as a culprit.
Biffa argues that short-term publicity exercises culminating in the rise of alternative materials including ‘compostable’ plastics, ‘bioplastics’ and plastics pouches are giving consumers false confidence that they are choosing recyclable items, when these materials are generally more environmentally harmful and are contaminating high-quality recycling.
The group is calling for simplification of plastics packaging materials with a focus on closed-loop recycling investment to ensure that where plastics packaging is necessary, it is developed to be as recyclable as possible into its original form or for other materials.
It also recommends that simpler and clearer labelling be backed by improved measures to make recycling collections more consistent across the UK.
Michael Topham, chief executive of Biffa, commented:“The time has come for decisive action to ensure we only use plastics in a sustainable manner, and to restore confidence in our waste and recycling systems. Biffa is today calling for a total ban on the export of unprocessed plastics waste. This will not only ensure our plastics waste is dealt with properly here in the UK but will also support investment and jobs, and provide vital raw materials for the UK circular economy. At the same time, we must phase out plastics that cannot be recycled, and deliver labelling and collection systems that are easy to understand and work for households and businesses.”
With over 3.9 million collections per week from 2.2 million households and 2.3 million tonnes collected from businesses per annum, Biffa is at the forefront of recycling in the UK.
The group has been one of the leaders in closed-loop recycling innovation in the UK having worked closely with the UK Dairy roadmap to re-design the milk bottle to be fully recyclable. Biffa Polymers processes approximately 900 million milk bottles per year and today 80 per cent of milk bottles in the UK contain 40 per cent of plastics from Biffa.