Recycle Week 2014 'your questions answered'

RPC: Why are polymers more complex to recycle?

By Jenny Eagle contact

- Last updated on GMT

TurnAvisual from RPC Superfos
TurnAvisual from RPC Superfos
RPC took part in a Twitter debate this week as part of Recycle Week 2014 (June 16-22) in partnership with recycling organisation Recoup.

The focus of the social media campaign was to debunk myths about plastics packaging recycling.

Katherine Fleet, group sustainability manager, RPC Group, told FoodProductionDaily the plastics industry faces several challenges in the coming years to meet ambitious Government-set recycling rates and to build a more positive environmental profile for the material among consumers.

She said the biggest myth it faced was plastic packaging is not recyclable or it is sent to China where it sits in landfill.  

Here are the top questions RPC saw on its @rpc_group and #recycleweek websites

Are councils obliged to provide recycling? Is it central government ruling or is it decided at local level how they deal with recycling?
Yes and yes! Central government targets are placed on councils to recycle a certain percentage of domestic waste. However this is an overall target so there are no specific targets placed on councils specifically for recycling plastics. How these targets are met is decided by individual councils, or groups of councils working in partnership, and different solutions may work best in different areas.  

Central government do place specific plastic packaging recycling targets on producers, suppliers, brands and retailers under producer responsibility and packaging recycling regulations. Both packaging and waste regulations are led by European directives and strategies passed at an European level, and it is up to individual countries to interpret and transpose requirements and relevant targets into laws and policies.

Still want to know more?  See the following Recoup website pages for all things packaging and waste legislation related.

What percentage of material that is recycled is plastic? 
Based on official packaging recycling data, approximately 6.7m tonnes of UK packaging was recycled in 2013. From this, 714kt (just over 10% by weight) was plastic packaging. We estimate that 475kt of this was from households, and 239kt from C&I sources. But don’t forget this data is based on weight, and plastic is a much bigger proportion of the total packaging recycled by volume – saving lots of landfill space!

What types of plastic can be recycled and how do I know they can?
The types of plastic that can be recycled often depends on your local collection scheme. You can find out if it is collected by checking your local council website or using the ‘Where to recycle’ application on the Recycle Now website at​. Most packaging will also have a recycling label that tells you if it is not currently recycled, to check local recycling or it is widely recycled.

With growing plastic pollution what plan, if any, do you have to solve this global problem? 
As an industry we are very aware that plastic, as well as other valuable materials, are sometimes ending up in the wrong places, these are resources we would like to see recycled and not wasted. This requires a supply chain approach to educate the industry and consumers about the correct way to dispose of materials. Operation Clean Sweep is one example of an industry initiative to reduce the loss of plastic into the environment. In the UK we also have numerous campaigns to discourage littering which we support through our membership of organisations such as, The BPF, Incpen and the Packaging Federation.

For more information see:​ 

Where can I recycle my plastic packaging?
If you have a local recycling scheme check which types of plastic packaging the scheme collects either by calling your local council or by checking their website. You can also use the ‘Where to recycle’ application on the Recycle Now website at​ to find out more information.

Why does my scheme say it collects ‘plastic bottles only’?
‘Plastic bottles only’ is a specification made by some local councils who collect plastics.  The reason for this is that bottles are very easy to identify, account for 40% of all household plastic waste and are easily separated into two main polymer (plastic) types. These are PET (e.g. fizzy drink bottles and squash bottles), HDPE (e.g. milk and juice bottles (natural HDPE) and detergent bottles (coloured HDPE)).

Why doesn't my scheme collect things like yoghurt pots and margarine tubs? 
Items such as margarine tubs and other rigid food containers are made from a wide range of polymers. These can be more complex to identify and separate in the recycling stream than bottles. However 60%of local authorities now collect pots, tubs and trays for recycling and this is increasing year on year. 

Do I have to do anything with my plastic packaging before I recycle it? 
It is a good idea to give your plastic packaging a quick wash before you put items out for recycling.  This helps to maintain the quality of the collected plastic and stops any nasty smells while you store it. Use the left over washing up water rather than running fresh water.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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