Plastic recycling infrastructure and education must jointly improve

The UK needs to improve both recycling infrastructure and reach out harder to consumers to make them care more about recycling, if it is to solve the pressing issue of plastic recycling in the UK.

That was the message delivered by Ecosurety’s managing director, james Piper at a breakfast briefing at the 2018 UK Bottled Water Conference last week in London. The briefing was centered on the topic of helping consumers value packaging and how to find ways they can be encouraged to recycle while on the move.

Other panellists included Trewin Restorick CEO of Hubbub, Jane Bevis Chair of OPRL, Stuart Foster CEO of RECOUP and Julian Hunt, Head of Public Affairs and Communications GB for Coca-Cola European Partners.

Calling out wasteful plastic creation

Other ideas discussed at the event included educating consumers about the value of plastic in the recycling chain to encourage them to continue to recycle, as well as ‘calling out’ instances of wasteful plastic creation. Other speakers also highlighted the danger of using legislation as a knee-jerk response which in fact created more issues later down the line, and voiced frustration at the lack of investment in recycling infrastructure by big brands placing recyclable material on the market.

James commented “If there is nowhere for plastic waste to go because there is no infrastructure investment in the UK, it’s just going to get exported, so something like a DRS will not necessarily solve the problems that people think it will." 

“Whilst we need to fund infrastructure and innovation in the UK that improves recycling, we also need to fund consumer awareness campaigns that improve consumer behaviour. You have to do both.“

Increasing the quality of plastic waste

James also argued that increasing the quality of plastic recycling materials from consumers would increase the number of PRNs (packaging recovery notes) in the system, which in turn decreases their price, enabling more brands to invest in PRNs using a long-term strategy and thereby creating more investment for UK recycling infrastructure.

Trewin Restorick, CEO/Founder of environmental charity Hubbub explained that it was possible for the industry to grab the interest of consumers by not using jargon, and keeping to topics which interested them, for example about how the issue affects them in their homes, their food and how plastics can impact their neighbourhoods.

He said: “We must call out the places where we have spurious packaging but also highlight where stuff is functional and has a purpose and helps people live their lives; it is the latter we have to defend.”

Brands should directly engage with consumers

Trewin also argued that it must be made a lot easier for consumers to recycle, and to leverage that enthusiasm to move forward on the rational things that will increase recycling overall in the UK.

Other ideas at the briefing included using recognised recycling labels to help consumers understand what kinds of plastics are in their packaging, and the use of technology, such as apps to help them recycle different types of plastics while on the go.

Consumers also need to be able to trust in the fact that materials are being recycled once collected from the doorstep, while brands should be directly engaging with their consumers to ensure they understand how the material supply chains for their products work. Finally, the industry will need to invest now in order to see results.

The briefing was moderated by Sanjay Patel, Founder of Packaging Collective and Co-founder of SimpleBetterHuman.

James Piper will also be talking about ‘Consumer perceptions around packaging’ at the Global Soft Drinks Congress in Prague on the 18 April. More information can be found here.

Ben Luger

Marketing projects specialist

Ben joined the team at the beginning of 2015 and helps drive marketing communications and projects for Ecosurety, including project managing the launch of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and website content development.

Written by Ben Luger Published 19/03/2018 Topics Ecosurety

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