Only a third of plastic used by households in the UK can be recycled, the Local Government Association has warned. The rest is sent to landfill.
The blend of plastics used in packaging for margarine and ice cream or fruit and vegetables limits the amount that councils can recycle.
Warning that two-thirds of this waste is sent to landfill, the Local Government Association (LGA) found that 525,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays are used by households every year, with just 169,145 tonnes of this waste able to be recycled.
However, up to 80 per cent of this packaging could be made recyclable, according to the LGA.
Packaging for food can be made from a variety of plastic molecules, or polymers, which need to be separated out to remove low-grade and non-recyclable polymers such as polystyrene.
A particularly inefficient form of packaging is that for microwave meals, which uses black plastic material that cannot be easily scanned and sorted by recycling machines.
Councils are now calling on the Government to consider a ban on low-grade plastics, and for producers and manufacturers to contribute to the cost of collection or disposal.
“It’s time for manufacturers to stop letting a smorgasboard of unrecyclable and damaging plastic flow into our environment. Some of the measures that could help us reduce landfill and increase recycling are no- brainers; for instance, microwave meals should be stored in a container that is any other colour than black, to enable quicker recycling,” commented LGA Environment spokesperson Judith Blake.
She added: “If manufacturers don’t want to get serious about producing material which can be recycled and protecting our environment, then they should at least contribute towards the cost that local taxpayers have to pay to clear it up.”
Five everyday packages that use unrecyclable plastic are margarine and ice cream tubs, microwave meals and meat packaging, fruit and vegetable punnets, yoghurt pots and bakery goods trays.
Photo credit: Mike Prince/ CC BY 2.0