Ecosurety’s policy manager Robbie Staniforth told the Sustain Wales Summit that within Wales, manufacturers are beginning to realise the responsibility that they have to reprocess the plastic packaging they produce.
Crucially he noted that “there is something that can be built upon, if only we can get the funding and the expansion into these businesses.”
The event on Thursday 7 June was attended by businesses from across Wales. It had a focus on sustainable procurement and looked at different aspects of procurement in the context of a variety of economic sectors, and Robbie gave a presentation on the topic of “Dealing with the problem onshore and making recycling part of our supply chain.”
A lot of issues and not a lot of solutions
At the start of his presentation, Robbie began by saying that it was fantastic to be part of this event and also to be working with Plaid Cymru. He added that “Plastics packaging is something that we have been looking at for a number of years to try and improve the way producers take responsibility for the products that they manufacture and sell across Wales, the UK, Europe and the rest of the world."
“We have a moment in time where there is a real interest being taken, but how do we deal with the problem of recycling single use plastics onshore? There are a lot of issues being flagged up with not a lot of solutions. The reality is that it’s very complex, and for Wales the lack of data regarding the situation is an issue.”
How to make sure plastic is recycled and business benefits?
Robbie then went on to say that in the UK, the reality is that only half of single use plastics that are placed onto the market are collected to be recycled, and there is now a pressure from the public and a wave of interest to ask where are the materials collected at the kerbside actually recycled. He also spoke about the packaging producer responsibility system which customers of Ecosurety, such as supermarkets and household brands, must adhere to for the recycling of products that they manufacture.
Addressing this, he asked the audience: “How can we make sure plastic is recycled and that Welsh businesses benefit on these shores, as opposed to it being exported? The truth of the matter is that of the 50% of single use plastics that is supposedly ‘recycled’ in the UK, only a third stays within the UK itself.”
The current situation involves re-processors collecting plastic packaging and exporting it to be dealt with offshore in Europe or the Far East, with only a proportion of items staying within the UK itself. As part of this, Robbie discussed the work that is being done in Wales by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) to look at how much plastics reprocessing is currently taking place and where there are areas for expansion. Commenting further, he added: “The current system of producer responsibility doesn’t go far enough, and there simply isn’t enough money in the system to have a big enough dent in the proportion of packaging that is reprocessed in this country.”
To be ambitious, move higher up the waste hierarchy
At the end of his presentation, Robbie was also involved in a Q&A session with Meegan Jones from Volvo Ocean Race and Bettina Gilbert from Wrap Cymru. During this, he was asked “Is there potential to use plastic to make hydrogen in Wales and use it as a fuel?”.
In response, where he commented on chemical recycling for plastics as a whole, Robbie said that there are technologies coming on board that will mean it can be refined to turn it back into plastic, and that there are also grades of oils that could be used for lubricants potentially, all the way through to marine fuel. However, he also concluded that if Wales wanted to be ambitious, it needed to move higher up the waste hierarchy than just looking at chemical recycling.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact our team.
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.
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