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3 - Regulation of Plastics

As the pie chart shows over 1/3 of the plastic waste in the UK come from packaging.

 

There are 7[xiv] types of plastic some of which can and are recycled however, cat 7 plastics which account for a lot of the plastics used are not recyclable.

 

These accounts for the very low rates for recycling, and therefore high levels of waste going to land fill.

Environmental Permit Consultants - Plastics[xv]

 

 

Environmental Permit Consultants - Waste Streams UK[xvi]

Approach 1 - Bio Plastics: Plastics are made from chemicals derived from oil, bio plastics represent a way to produce plastic that can be disposed of in compost, at point of use, or local facilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pros: Embracing the proximity principal consumers can dispose of waste plastic at home, in their compost heaps / vessels

Cons: However, bio plastics can cause contamination of conventional plastic when recycling.

In urban areas where compost heaps are not the norm the bio plastics will probably be placed with food waste, thus increasing the percentages of putrescible waste.

Approach 2 - Ban on Type 7 Plastics

This should be coupled with a ban of type 7 plastics, which are seldom recycled, and it should be included in the Duty of Care obligations that Local Authorities make provision to recycle type 1 - 6.

Pros: With only six types of plastic on the shelves, recycling will become easier, and hopefully more prevalent.

Cons: Although production of type 7 plastic could be easily policed in the UK imports from China and India would be more difficult to police, in this area change would be driven by the supply chain, with retailers / industry specifying they wanted goods / materials delivered free of type 7 plastics.

Approach 3 - Mandatory Labelling

In order inform of plastic type, accurate and informative recycling information should be mandatory of all packaging, then consumers will be able to make an informed decision.

By informing the consumer of whether there product is packaged in a material that can be recycled is essential.

 

Many of the more responsible retailers have started to label packaging in some detail “Plan A” (M&S) and similar initiatives have been fully embraced my many retailers.

 

This label from a ready meal identifies the plastic portion as unrecyclable.

 

 

Environmental Permit Consultants[xvii]

Pros: A chance to eliminate “bad” packaging at the source via consumer selection.

Cons: This approach will be costly for smaller retail outlets, and may lead to further monopolisation of the retail sector.

Relies on consumer “knowing their stuff”

 

[xiv] About.com

[xv] http://www.wasteonline.org.uk/

[xvi] Mixed sources - noted on diagram

[xvii] Consumer Retail Consortium

[xviii] http://www.netregs.gov.uk/netregs/businesses/88625.aspx

[xix] BBC news

[xx] Daily Mail - Read with Caution

[xxi] The effects of unit pricing system upon household solid waste management: The Korean experience

[xxii] http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/news/107552.aspx?page=6&month=5&year=2009 

[xxiii] http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/news/107552.aspx?page=6&month=5&year=2009

[xxiv] http://www.hwca.com/publications/news.php?id=446