UK residents only recycle one third of plastic packaging

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The remaining two-thirds end up at landfill sites or incinerators 

According to new research, only one third of plastic packaging used for consumer products is recycled every year, meaning two-thirds end up at landfill sites, or is incinerated.

Last year in the UK, consumers used around 1.5m tonnes of recyclable plastic but only 500,000 tonnes of that was recycled.

UK residents only recycle one third of their plastic packaging

Blue recycling bins for plastic products waiting to be collected © Copyright Andy Beecroft and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

These recent figures have been collected by the Co-op from the Recoup UK Household Plastics Collection Survey and what they show is that plastic recycling in the UK falls below the national recycling average. At the moment, 45% of recyclable products are recycled every year.

Many recycling groups believe the failings come down to consumers not really understanding what items can or can’t be recycled and not enough recycling services on offer from local authorities.

Technical manager at the plastic recycling charity Recoup, Steve Morgan, says that most consumers know that plastic bottles can be recycled and the rate for those being recycled is 60% but when it comes to other plastic items such as margarine tubs and yoghurt pots, people are unsure and as a result, the recycling rate for such items is much lower (30%).

In 2015, just 3% of plastic film products, such as those on ready meals and rice and pasta bags, were recycled and not only was it put down to consumers not knowing if these plastic products can be recycled, only eighty (20%) of local authorities across the UK offer a recycling service specifically for these items.

Plastic products which are recycled can be turned into a wide range of useful items, such as car bumpers, building products and plastic furniture.

Mr Morgan said: “The general message is that the amount of plastic packaging in landfill has decreased – it’s a huge success story of the last 20 years but so much more can be done. There’s plenty of material that comes through the household that ends up in the bin.”

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