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Latest environmental news blog - Week of 22 January

29th January 2018

Cherry Whittaker

To document a busy week in the press for the world of recycling and environmental topics, we're bringing you a summary of all the top stories from week commencing 22 January 2018

Coffey investigates deposit return scheme in Norway 

A Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers is becoming increasingly favoured in the UK, particularly as it wasn't completely ruled out within the recent 25-Year Environment Plan and due to the Environment Audit Committee wanting to introduce the scheme. There are 40 countries and 21 US states with a DRS already in place and Norway claim their scheme is the “the world’s best deposit system”. Following recycling minister Therese Coffey's visit in December 2017 to a recycling centre in Norway run by a not-for-profit company who also operate Norway's DRS, said company are now backing the UK to be capable of implementing a similar scheme. 

Throughout this visit, Coffey was introduced to Norway's Desposit Return Scheme system and was given a tour of the recycling and production department. In addition, Coffey was shown a DRS vending machine working in a shop and the functionality of this.  

Generally, countries with a DRS in place for plastic bottles manage to achieve impressive recycling rates of around 80 – 95%. This very much supports reasoning for introducing a deposit system in the UK and considering the fact Coffey has started looking at other schemes, it seems a DRS may be a consideration for the UK looking ahead to the future. We will provide updates on this as and when further information is released. 

Coca-Cola is aiming to achieve ambitious target of 100% recycling by 2030 

Blue chip brand Coca-Cola is the latest company to communicate their intentions regarding plastics, which is on a global scale to collect and recycle an equal to every bottle or can they sell by the year 2030. The company claims this is an "industry-first goal". This was announced by Coca-Cola's president James Quincey, who also said the company will “continue to focus on developing 100-percent recyclable packaging and reducing the amount of plastic in its bottles."

However, back in 2007, Coca-Cola announced an almost identical target for its American market specifically, and 11 years on, it is debatable as to whether this goal has been achieved. 

With regards to the UK, in Summer 2017 Coca-Cola European Partners announced its big plans to utilise 50% recycled PET in all plastic bottles by 2020 and that this will be met via a partnership with Clean Tech UK, who will supply the recycled PET from its reprocessing plant in Lincolnshire.

2019 WEEE target increase is a concern for the UK 

Next year (2019), the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) collection target will increase by 20% for the weight of new products placed on the market, from 45% to 65%. Considering that there has been a downward trend for the amount of WEEE collected in the UK, this is potentially going to be a difficult goal to achieve.

The collection target of 45% was introduced in 2016, as part of the revised WEEE Directive in effect as of 2012. Furthermore, the amends included the target of 65% of products sold from 2019. 

 

Following the release of the Q3 WEEE data (click here to read our analysis on this), this showed that producer compliance schemes may be unable to achieve the 2017 target, let alone the 2019 target. Therefore, at this point compliance schemes expressed their concerns about the targets moving forward.

It's looking positive that 2017 packaging targets will be met, but the sector is still wary

According to the Environment Agency, it is highly promising that the UK will achieve its 2017 packaging waste recovery targets, including plastics. However, despite this positive news, the packaging compliance sector are still concerned about 2018 targets. 

It is broadly perceived within the packaging sector that failure to meet 2017 targets is highly unlikely, however, for some streams such as wood and plastics the 2018 targets could potentially be more demanding. 

 

Waste paper sector is feeling the strain due to export restrictions 

The main large concern is regarding mixed papers, as a result of the New Year exportation to China restrictions and some experts within the sector have predicted that a solution for the material is almost impossible. Export markets from Indonesia and Vietnam through to India are already well-stocked and ports are constantly highly occupied. 

It has been said that one buyer hopes Germany will assist with taking some of the UK's materials by entering back into the market. However, sources in Europe are not impressed; they have reported that they have been ignored by waste companies for a while and evidently only when times are hard, do the UK want to send highly contaminated materials over there? 

 

Free water scheme designed to cut use of plastic bottles

A free water refill initiative is to be rolled out across England in businesses, shops and cafes designed to reduce the use of disposable plastic drinks bottles by tens of millions per year. Click here to read our full story on this topic. 

Call for packaging recovery note (PRN) changes triggered by Sky TV documentary 

Dirty Business, a recent plastics documentary which aired last week on Sky Atlantic (26 January) has motivated the British Plastics Federation (BPF) and Chase Plastics to repeat and hammer home their key messages explaining that there needs to be measures in place as part of the UK Packaging Waste Recovery Note (PRN) system to stimulate more reprocessing within the country. 

Dirty Business investigated the recycled materials which have been exported to China for recycling, in terms of the amount of plastics which end up in landfill. This supports the views of many within the BPF Recycling Group that the UK has relied too much upon exportation for recycling. The group hopes that the increased awareness and media coverage of the issue will speed up change to result in more waste plastic being reprocessed in the UK.

In addition, the documentary focused on the fact that sourcing outlets for contaminated material is difficult.  

Britain's leading supermarkets exposed for their large plastic footprint

Th eight most major supermarket chains are legally obliged to annually declare the amount of plastic they place onto the market under the Packaging Waste Directive, however, following an investigation carried out by The Guardian, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Asda and Lidl were all unwilling to disclose these figures to the public. Only Aldi and Co-op agreed to release their figures regarding how much plastic they placed onto the market in a year. 

Using the data from the 2 aforementioned brands, in addition to market share information which is available publicly, it was estimated as part of the Guardian's investigation that the major supermarket chains are creating almost 1 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste every year. This is considerably more than half of all annual UK household plastic waste. Therefore, it is understandable as to why these companies refused to reveal their figures because this estimation proves that they are hugely contributing to the global plastic waste threat. 

In addition to requesting the figures for the amount of plastic packaging supermarkets sell in a year, The Guardian also asked if they would pledge to introducing a plastic-free aisle in their stores. However, none of the companies would commit to this, despite the fact that this is something Prime Minister Theresa May called for as part of the government's 25-Year Environment Plan.