Plastics Sector Lobbied Defra For Lower Recycling Targets

The plastics sector lobbied Defra for lower recycling targets, according to data obtained by Greenpeace.

Last year, Defra announced that targets for plastic recycling would be reduced from 57% to a 49% for 2016 and then increased by 2% each year to 2020, to a maximum of 57% by 2020.

The change was brought in “to reduce the burden on business”, it said and that the previous target was based on the expectation of much higher waste arising. It said: “this means it is possible to reduce the business targets on obligated producers and still maintain a similar recycling rate.”

Greenpeace, however, has claimed plastic producers and lobby groups “piled the pressure” on the Government to reduce the target.

Greenpeace obtained 62 of the 63 responses to the consultation, finding sixteen of the respondents were industry lobby groups, while a further nine were producers of plastics products. All but one of those 25 responses pushed for a reduction in recycling targets, it says.

Those that took part in the consultation were given three options for plastic recycling targets, two of which involved reducing the targets, albeit at different rates.

Greenpeace – “Those profiting from throwaway plastics are abdicating responsibility for the end life of their products, while blaming consumers for their environmental impact on land and at sea.”

In their responses, they pointed to “minimising long term compliance costs on producers” and “market difficulties” in making recycling profitable, Greenpeace says.

Greenpeace published the response of the British Plastics Federation (BPF), which said higher targets would shift the focus to quantity instead of the quality of plastic recyclate.

BPF stated: “By having targets which increase at a slower steady rate it is more likely to result in better quality, will allow further time for non-bottle markets to establish sustainable demand drivers and will allow time for UK recycling companies to invest and expand their businesses in order to meet the additional demand for reprocessing capacity.”

Environmental groups, local authorities and some recycling companies tended towards pushing to keep targets where they were, Greenpeace says.

Recycling and waste disposal company Biffa pushed for no change to the targets, stating: “from the viewpoints of environmental benefit, and the promotion and maintenance of the UK recycling infrastructure, we believe that there is no alternative but to maintain Option P1 [no change to targets].

“Any other option selected would undoubtedly impose a significant decline in the sector infrastructure, and would weaken the UK’s standing on environmental affairs and commitment to recycling.”

Ariana Densham, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “None of us should be surprised that the plastics industry is lobbying the government to reduce recycling targets.

“It mirrors the approach, which we’ve seen exposed recently, of companies like Coca-Cola lobbying against the introduction of bottle deposit return schemes and increased recycling rates.

“Those profiting from throwaway plastics are abdicating responsibility for the end life of their products, while blaming consumers for their environmental impact on land and at sea.”

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  1. I think that Greenpeace has a very one dimensional view in this case. Targets need to be proportionate and reflect the intended outcome. Target increases at the original +5%/annum level could not have been achieved through normal growth. PRN prices would have shot up leading to even greater exports to the detriment of UK reprocessing. This would have encouraged even greater export abuse than we are currently seeing as there would have been huge incentives to export any type of plastic and call it packaging. This would have created an artificially high perception of recycling which, when reality set in as with glass in 2012, would have seen a dramatic fall in actual recycling volumes which would have led to even higher PRN prices and a crisis for those trying to comply as the PRN evidence would simply not have been there. I would suggest Greenpeace needs to understand the dynamics of the PRN market before making these sorts of claims and that they should also let us know how the majority of the rest of the consultees responded. This just seems to be jumping on the plastics-bashing bandwagon.

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