28 Jan Should manufacturers have to pay more recycling costs?
Guest blog written by Ruby Clarkson.
The UK government plans to create a new plastic tax which will affect any business using plastic which does not contain more than 30% recyclable material. If this strategy takes place, it is expected that between £500m and £1bn a year will be raised for recycling. Whilst the finer details have yet to be announced, we can expect this to affect manufacturers and businesses that use their plastic to package goods.
Plastic manufacturers will need to have some in depth conversation with businesses that rely heavily on plastic to package materials before the proposed new tax is introduced in April 2022. The likes of Coca Cola, PepsiCo and Ribena already have plans in motion to increase the amount of recyclable PET in their bottles which will draw out over the next ten years. There are multiple UK brands that need to do the same. This will include everyone from pasta producers to big retailers who sell their own line of products. Furthermore, the government has stated that the strategy will also include a deposit return scheme, which will hopefully increase the recycling of single use drink packaging, such as bottles and cans.
Plastic manufacturers are the ones ultimately producing this material however and are responsible for creating plastic which can be widely used by their customers. This new strategy therefore aims to place responsibility on manufacturers and make them pay for the disposal costs. If tax is to be placed upon the manufacturers then they are likely to create more plastic which can be recycled. This will then affect neither themselves nor their customers.
A manufacturer that adheres to producing recyclable plastic will be more attractive to businesses wishing to use this plastic than one that takes a less pragmatic approach to recyclable plastic. So therefore it will be good for business if a committed attitude towards recyclable plastic is taken. It will also look good in the public eye as they will see an eco-friendly company and it will increase green credentials which are becoming increasingly important.
Quite simply, all of the UK’s biggest supermarkets unnecessarily use fresh produce wrapped in plastic. Walk up and down any supermarket and you will see bananas, carrots, onions and more wrapped in single-use plastic. You will then bizarrely see the same products loose in a box right next to them most of the time. Loose fruit and vegetables are often cheaper, so plastic wrapped produce is clearly used as a money spinner, which is morally wrong. Thankfully this may have to change when the new tax arrives. It will be interesting to see if supermarkets still use plastic for fresh produce as the cost of producing new recyclable plastic will be passed on to them from the manufacturer.
Cost is essentially the reason so much single-use plastic is used across the world. It is a cheap and effective material for protecting vulnerable goods but we are now seeing what a difficult product it is to dispose of effectively if it is non-recyclable. We have oceans filled with plastic bags, straws and packaging as well as landfill sites contaminated by plastic which takes decades to bio-degrade. The UK is thankfully reacting to these shocking revelations by banning the likes of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds alongside this proposed new tax on non-recyclable plastic. More needs to be done but the UK has responded quickly to worldwide concerns about plastic. This tax will be part of the UK’s 25-year-plan to cut down on all forms of avoidable waste by 2050.
New forms of recyclable plastic will be widespread across the UK in a matter of years if the new tax gets the go ahead. This should hopefully make all non-recyclable plastic packaging disappear so we can concentrate on getting all of our plastic recycled in an effective manner. Segregation will be easy for companies that produce plastic waste. In reality this tax will mean manufacturers will try and ensure that their plastic products can be recycled and segregated at the source easier than it is to do at present. Businesses then just need a valuable recycling system in place to recycle 100% of the plastic. There is no better way to do this than to bale plastic, which can then be collected by a recycling company. These bales are then ready to be recycled.
This is where a system of putting loose plastic into bins falls down. Loose plastic travels poorly and still needs to be sorted back at the waste management depot. This means bin collections are expensive due to all the added labour they bring. Loose waste is also liable to overflow and blow away in poor weather conditions, which means the plastic will not always arrive at its final destination and be fully recycled. Densely tied bales however are weatherproof and transport effectively when stacked. Recyclers will in most areas of the UK collect bales free of charge which can save hundreds and possibly thousands of pounds on bin collections. Recycling experts at QCR state that “Baling plastic packaging waste such as shrink wrap, film, PET bottles and farm plastics is the most effective and low cost method of recycling such waste.”
Manufacturers should have to pay more recycling costs in order to help themselves and the UK to be world leaders in plastic recycling. Creating new forms of recyclable plastic will cost more but it will mean they avoid getting taxed. If supermarkets insist on continuing to use plastic then the cost of new manufactured materials can be passed on by the manufacturers to the retailers and other businesses that continually use plastic. It will all be for the greater good of the planet.
Ruby Clarkson is a freelance writer who is passionate about our planet and the animals that we share it with. When she is not writing, she is either out in the garden or wrapped up in a blanket with a good book. Accompanied by a bar of chocolate of course.