It was estimated that there was reduction of around 70,000 tonnes in the quantity of household plastic packaging placed on the market in the UK, with quantities collected by local authorities at the kerbside also reducing by nearly 30,000 tonnes. Both have reduced by around 5%. There has also been a plateau in the development of kerbside provision, as all UK local authorities have collected plastic bottles for recycling at the kerbside since 2019, but only 88% collect plastic pots, tubs, and trays, the same as in 2021, and plastic films and flexibles dropping from 13% to 12%, the sixth year in a row this has decreased.
This amounts to a collection rate of 42% for all household plastic packaging – 63% for plastic bottles, 39% for plastic pots, tubs, and trays, and 7% for plastic films and flexibles. The UK’s overall recycling rate for plastic packaging from household and commercial sources is 52%.
With Simpler Recycling announced in October, and dates communicated with regards to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) across the UK, local authorities can now start to plan how they can tackle the changes needed, although payments to enable this from the new packaging Extended Producer Responsibility are yet to be fully established.
Policy alone may not unpick some of the complexities local authorities have with their collection contracts and infrastructure, but to avoid a further slide or stagnation in household plastic collections, efforts need to be made sooner rather than later, particularly with recycling targets due to increase.
This year’s Survey found that whilst local authorities are making significant efforts to communicate recycling specification to citizens, more resource and focus is needed on plastic packaging citizen communications and behaviour change programmes.
RECOUP is also launching its UK Citizen Plastics Recycling Behaviours Insights Survey 2023 which indicates an annual drop of 7% nationally of citizens claiming to recycle plastics drinks bottles every time, to 88%. Despite the fact that citizens tend to overclaim actual behaviours this reflects a worrying trend. However, where Pledge2Recycle Plastics has been partnering with Durham County Council to deliver citizen and community engagement on plastics recycling, individuals declaring to recycle drinks bottles every time rose by 2%, to 97%.