U.K. plastics industry looks largely to incineration to meet self-imposed goal of zero plastic waste by 2020; recycling could be raised to 45% from 23% if optimum rates were adopted, says industry official

LOS ANGELES , December 29, 2011 () –

In the U.K., the plastics industry aims to meet its self-imposed goal of zero plastic waste by 2020 largely through incineration, although it notes that plastics recycling could be doubled if all programs operated optimally, reported the Guardian on Dec. 29.

The U.K. plastics recycling rate could increase to 45% from 23% if every council were to model its program after the best local authority for each plastic type, including polyethylene terephthalate bottles, cartons, trays, bags, and others, said Barry Turner from the European Packaging and Films Association (PAFA).

Recycling “on the go” also needs to improve “dramatically,” he said, noting that it’s currently “almost nonexistent,” the Guardian reported.

The industry’s push to eliminate plastic waste comes amid pressures involving highly visible plastic waste and its effect on the environment.

PlasticsEurope estimates that 265 million tonnes of plastic are annually produced worldwide. In the U.K., two thirds of the plastics produced is used for packaging, reported the Guardian.

Even if the world recycled at the European Union’s stellar 33% rate, about 175 million tonnes of plastic would not be recycled, based on PlasticsEurope’s figures.

However, a world without plastics would not be ideal, as indicated in a study released earlier this year by Austria-based environmental consultancy Denkstatt, the Guardian reported.

Using other forms of packaging like wood, tins, glass bottles and jars and paperboard would result in a 3.6-times increase in packaging that would require twice as much energy to produce, resulting in 2.7-times higher greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report.

Food waste would also increase without plastics, based on PAFA’s claim that half of the food in developing countries spoils compared with 3% in the developed world, where plastic pallets, crates, trays, film and bags are more widely used, reported the Guardian.

Plastic has other benefits to the environment, including requiring less fuel to transport because it is lighter, said Turner.

Because plastics are inert, they also sequester carbon in a landfill rather than releasing it, according to Friends of the Earth’s waste campaigner Julian Kirby.

However, environmental campaigners are opposed to incinerating plastics, because of concerns about waste ash disposal and plant emissions despite the U.K. Health Protection Agency’s assurances that modern plants do not create a health hazard, the Guardian reported.

The primary source of this article is the Guardian, King’s Cross, England, on Dec. 29, 2011.


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