In the UK, over 70% of the plastic packaging collected is composed of plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays (PTT). It is essential to process a significant proportion of the huge tonnage of plastic so as to meet recycling targets set by resource minister Lord de Mauley.
Due to the barriers put up by traditional recipient countries, such as China, there has been a reduced export of these plastics. It is therefore vital that the UK develop a market for the PTT. Packaging producers have joined recyclers in pushing towards the recycling of plastics. As raw materials keep appreciating in cost, so has the appeal for recycled polymers, and this is more so where the plastics are used to package foods.
The program manager at WRAP, Claire Shrewsbury, told MRW that one of the ways to develop a recycling market is to add more value to the recycled product, and this means making it capable of packaging foods, which require high quality plastics.
According to Recoup, the recycling rate at most of the councils carrying out this process is well above 50%. The price per ton for recycled clear PET, has reached £250-£300 per ton, meaning that the product is profit- and eco-friendly
There are still factors affecting the quality of recycling, and food grade PET is now being downgraded to non-food, despite progress in and award-winning producer-recycler partnerships – such as the Continuum plant operated by Coca-Cola Enterprises and Eco Plastics
One of the factors is the light weight of some bottles which are not detected by the separators, thereby ensuring that they do not make it into the food-grade recyclers. Additives, such as oxygen scavenger, which stops oxygen from entering the packaged food is affecting the process of recycling. Others include PVC labels, and aggressive non-water soluble glues.