Study Says That UK Needs £1bn Investment In Materials Recycling

New research has found that the UK lacks sufficient recycling infrastructure, and an investment of £1bn is needed to build new plastics sorting and reprocessing facilities. Circular Online reports that the sustainability advisors Anthesis have found that up to 46 new industrial recycling facilities are needed across the UK.

The study was commissioned by Viridor, and suggests that if the right level of investment is made, it could result in the creation of over 1,000 skilled jobs for the green economy, plus an overall boost of £3bn over a timescale of 25 years. In particular, the North West of England could benefit by up to £1bn, with 420 new jobs created.

The UK currently exports 0.5Mt of waste plastic for recycling overseas, and it is predicted that this could rise to 1Mt per year within 15 years. The report criticised the short-term approach to contracts in the recycling sector, and called for decisive reforms in policy to support a more sustainable approach.

Dr Tim Rotheray, Director of ESG at Viridor said: “When people put out their plastic recycling each week, they expect that material to be recycled in the UK. Ending plastic waste export is not only the right thing to do but also a major employment opportunity across the UK.”

He added: “New policy could unlock up to £1 billion in new industrial facilities up and down the country. Businesses are ready to invest and policy reforms have the potential to address the barriers identified in this report, while putting the UK on track for a circular plastics economy.”

The Committee on Climate Change has also highlighted the limited progress made by the UK on waste recycling strategies over the past few years. In a recent report, it called for more ambitious targets to be set for 2030 and beyond, and to set out and implement additional policies that would help the government to meet carbon net zero targets.

Anna Brockhaus, Consultant at Anthesis, commented, “Our research shows how investment in high quality plastics recycling infrastructure is not only critical to drive down waste and carbon emissions, but that this could also unlock economic benefits across the UK.”

She added: “We are at a pivotal point for both resource use and reducing emissions, and the opportunities identified in this research are key to creating a more sustainable world.”

It is estimated that only about 54% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling in the UK each year, representing about 1.3Mt. Meanwhile the amount of plastic packaging being used is set to increase by 45% over the next 15 years, and yet there are no satisfactory plans in place to increase collection or domestic recycling facilities within the UK.

The report recommends that 24 new plastic sorted facilities are built by 2035, plus an additional 22 plastic recycling facilities with a total capacity of 500 to 645Mt per year.


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